Water Use & Conservation

‘A Water Conservation Strategy for British Columbia’, released in 1998, is a foundation document. It marks the shift from a WHY change to HOW to change mind-set.

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“A Water Conservation Strategy for British Columbia” was launched at the 1998 Annual Convention of the Union of BC Municipalities

“A Water Conservation Strategy for British Columbia” was developed by a working group chaired by Prad Khare. The Strategy will contribute to a sustained and healthy resource and provide a common framework for water management activities throughout the province by advancing water as a valuable resource which must be utilized efficiently, wisely and cost-effectively to sustain a high quality of social, environmental and economic well-being, for now and in the future.

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Water, Water Everywhere….Does British Columbia Really Need a Water Conservation Strategy?

In 1992, co-authored papers by Tom Heath and Kim Stephens and by Ted van der Gulik (left) and Kim Stephens, respectively, were published as an integrated magazine article. “Although there is a perception that BC is water-rich, the reality is that we are often seasonally water-short (mainly because of storage limitations) during the period when water demand is heaviest due to lawn and garden irrigation,” wrote the authors in their opening paragraph.

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RAINWATER HARVESTING IN MEXICO CITY: Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has promised to install 100,000 rainwater harvesting systems on rooftops by the end of her six-year-tenure

Millions of people in Mexico City lack access to running water. Along with Cairo, Bangalore, Cape Town, and seven other megalopolises, Mexico City will run out of water by 2030. The irony is, water in the city abounds. Set on a mile-and-a-half-high basin and surrounded by mountains, the city — which used to be integrated with a system of lakes and rivers — receives more yearly rainfall than London, England. Today, most of the city’s water is collected from underground wells or pumped from hundreds of miles away through inefficient and costly infrastructure.

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BRITISH COLUMBIA’S NEW CLIMATE REALITY: “While summer drought is very much the new normal for the Cowichan Valley, the warm temperatures and lack of rain we’ve had year-to-date is of significant concern,” said Kate Miller, Manager of Environmental Services, Cowichan Valley Regional District

Persistent drought conditions mean that Cowichan Valley residents asked to reduce water use by up to 30 percent. The Cowichan Valley Regional District had been at Drought Level 1 since May 2019, which calls for a 10 percent voluntary reduction in water use. But Kate Miller said that further analysis by her office in early June had concluded the region was really at Level 2 and fast approaching Level 3. “We can see the low lake and river levels, but data from provincial monitoring wells tells us the drought is also affecting groundwater aquifers,” she said.

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BRITISH COLUMBIA’S NEW CLIMATE REALITY: “Brace for another drought crisis in 2019,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability, when he reflected on crossing an invisible threshold to a new climate regime (June 2019)

“The new reality in BC is drought and flooding. It is either famine or feast. The water balance is out of balance,” says Kim Stephens. “The summer dry season has extended on both ends. Communities can no longer count on a predictable snowpack and reliable rain to maintain a healthy water balance in watersheds. This is putting water supply systems and ecosystems under extreme stress. 2015 was the first year of this new reality. By 2018, there was little doubt that the extent of drought and forest fires in the Northern Hemisphere may define a turning point in human history.”

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BRITISH COLUMBIA’S NEW CLIMATE REALITY: “This is the fifth year of a pattern of drought that used to be something seen every 10 or 20 years,” stated David Campbell, Hydrologist & Section Head, BC River Forecast Centre (June 2019)

Extreme hot dry weather has left streams and rivers across the province running low and that’s creating drought conditions more commonly seen in late July. “I tend to be kind of shocked,” David Campbell said. “All of the rivers across the province are extremely low for this time of year. We are coming into conditions that we haven’t really seen at all — or certainly not that often.” That has elevated concerns about already vulnerable salmon that need the tributaries to get into the rivers to spawn in late summer, when the drought is expected to be at its worst.

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LONGER, DRIER SUMMERS ARE METRO VANCOUVER’S DROUGHT MANAGEMENT REALITY: The Early Edition’s About Here columnist Uytae Lee says climate change means reservoirs won’t always be full (June 2019)

“We hear all the time, Vancouver is rainy, why does a place like this need water restrictions?,” said Uytae Lee. “It’s because rainy summer days are becoming rarer and the reservoirs will be emptier and it’s no longer enough to cross our fingers and hope it lasts through fall. A key part of our water problem in Vancouver is we treat our water supply like a buffet. One solution is to install water meters on City of Vancouver homes — similar to hydro meters — that can record residential water usage. Only six per cent of homes in the city currently have a meter installed.”

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Stajan V J’s short film, Rain of Life launched on World Water Day conveys the importance of water conservation in the wake of scorching summer in India

The short film begins with a young couple enjoying the beauty of nature in a helicopter. Their helicopter crashes in a deserted place in Kenya where they can’t find a single drop of water. While desperately searching for water, they come across a tribal man with a vessel of water. They are in a situation where they are ready to pay the tribal man anything to quench their thirst but he is not ready to give them any. The film shows the difficulties the couple has to go through to get a few drops of water.

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CAPE TOWN WATER CRISIS: “A city that safeguards itself against water risks is characterised by shared accountability. We have a long way to go,” stated Dr. Kevin Winter, Future Water Institute

“In the future, the implementation of commitments and actions will require a ‘whole of society’ approach in which there is city-wide collaboration built on trust, transparency and mutual accountability. In other words, the challenge should be more about social transformation than finding new water supplies, capital cost and operational expenses,” wrote Dr. Kevin Winter. “The city avoided two crises this past year in water management. It successfully avoided Day Zero and avoided large-scale investment in new water supplies.”

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Los Angeles County’s Bold Plan for Safe, Clean Water: “Weaning ourselves from imported water is starting to seem possible,” wrote Mark Gold in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times

“The (Measure W) initiative imposes a Los Angeles County parcel tax that will generate $300 million per year to reduce pollution from runoff and capture storm water to add to the water supply,” wrote Mark Gold. “Reliance on local water supplies will make L.A. County far more earthquake-resilient and will become increasingly important as climate change brings longer and more severe droughts to the region, and to our imported water sources in the Sierras and the Colorado River watershed.”

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DODGING DAY ZERO IN CAPETOWN: Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson says stormwater harvesting is a key component of the City’s draft water strategy

“The next step comprises the management of all water within the urban water cycle. A key component of this is rain and stormwater harvesting, which offers great growth opportunities,” Ian Neilson said. “Stormwater and rain harvesting on a large scale is an incredibly intricate and complicated process with many legal, practical, budgetary, infrastructure and other considerations. Much work is underway.” The City has a draft strategy for harvesting rain and stormwater, part of a move towards holistic water management.

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BLUE CITY: Report highlights innovative water solutions for municipalities and regions across Canada – “We offer a vision of what is possible in the near future,” stated Kirk Stinchcombe, lead author (January 2014)

“This is a story about what is possible in urban water sustainability. Blue City is an idea that is emerging and well within reach for most communities. It is not a utopian fantasy. The elements that make the City exemplary are occurring in real places across Canada and around the world. The City described herein combines these characteristics into a single, fictional location, and in so doing demonstrates an end state towards which real cities can aspire. It is what any place could look like if water really mattered,” stated Kirk Stinchcombe.

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