LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “An unintended outcome of customizing the BC Landscape Water Calculator for Abbotsford is in the way it gives homeowners direction for plant selection. This is powerful,” stated Amy Peters, coordinator of the City of Abbotsford water conservation program

Note to Reader:

The edition of Waterbucket eNews published on June 8, 2021 focused on targeting seasonal outdoor water use. This represents the best opportunity to achieve “water use in balance with a changing water cycle”. The spotlight was on the Partnership for Water Sustainability’s program to operationalize use of the BC Landscape Water Calculator, the newest tool in the Partnership toolbox. The Calculator is up and running in three regions: Okanagan, Vancouver Island and Fraser Valley.

Outdoor Water Use in Balance with a Changing Water Cycle

“Warmer and wetter winters; longer and drier summers. When supply is at a minimum, demand is at a maximum. This is British Columbia’s new reality. Adapting means that we must view water differently. Our seasonal use of water for yard and garden irrigation must be in balance with a changing water cycle,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“To achieve the goal of water sustainability, the 45 actions and targets in Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan establish expectations for Doing Business Differently, Preparing Communities for Change, and Choosing to Be Water Smart.”

“To support necessary changes in water resource and demand management practice, the Partnership and governments are collaborating to develop resources and implement science-based tools that build understanding and influence choices. One of these tools is the BC Landscape Water Calculator.”

“Widespread use of this online, public domain tool would help communities meet their targets for allowable water use and total demand reduction at the property and community scales, respectively.”

Science-Based, the BC Landscape Water Calculator is Evolving Through Collaboration

“The Partnership for Water Sustainability has collaborated with three local governments to operationalize the BC Landscape Water Calculator in three regions: Okanagan (City of Kelowna), Fraser Valley (City of Abbotsford) and Vancouver Island (Capital Regional District). With each application, there is a new twist. Each time, we evolve the tool to meet the needs of our partners. Everyone benefits. This is the power of the collaborative approach,” stated Ted van der Gulik, Chair, BC Landscape Water Calculator Program. Prior to retirement from government, he was the Senior Engineer in the Ministry of Agriculture.

The First Cohort of Demonstration Applications

“The tool is universal, but the drivers for local governments using it are different. The Kelowna version is oriented to contractors who must submit reports as a requirement of the QWEL program. In the case of Abbotsford, the focus is squarely on homeowners who wish to apply for a $250 Waterwise Landscape Rebate. In the Capital Regional Region, the tool supports Live Green and Work Green educational programs in the residential and commercial sectors, respectively.”

“Customizing of the tool for each region included plant selection dropdowns. Sounds innocuous, doesn’t it? Not so! There is no readily available resource for water efficient plants in British Columbia. The Partnership had to customize a database for each region. This is a key resource; and is unique to the BC Landscape Water Calculator.

“But the inventory of water efficient plants is accessible only in communities where the local government is a project partner. In addition to this valuable feature, the calculator provides users with guidance as to whether plant selections are suitable for sun exposure or shade. Think about why that is important.”

To Learn More:

View an online demo of the tool by Ted van der Gulik on YouTube. Then test drive the BC Landscape Water Calculator at

Irrigation and Landscape Water Efficiency in Abbotsford

“In 2011, the City looked at options to reduce peak water demands due to the high cost of a new water source. This included conservation, optimizing existing sources and system efficiencies. Several different conservation programs were explored, one of the programs implemented was a voluntary program for irrigation and landscape water efficiency,” stated Amy Peters.

“This program involved doing assessments of individual properties. Because they were in-depth, the assessments took a lot of time. We did not know whether the impact was great or small. Our rationale was that it is more about building awareness.”

“The solution to our need was the BC Landscape Water Calculator. The value of the calculator is that homeowners can now provide us with a report that shows how their choice of water efficient plants and landscape design meets their water budget.  The report is the basis for payment of a rebate.”

Managing Peak Water Demand

“The City sees the BC Landscape Water Calculator in helping us manage our peak demand. It really is about building the awareness through education. I like that the calculator will be able to show people just how much they can reduce their water use.”

“Many homeowners are now familiar with how much they are using because the number is on their utility bill. It really is important that they be able to see how much outdoor water use contributes to their total water demand. The BC Landscape Water Calculator does this.”

To Learn More:

To read the complete article, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Operationalizing the BC Landscape Water Calculator