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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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PLANNING FOR WATER RESILIENCY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “A Water Conservation Plan is a mandatory document in order to apply for an infrastructure grant. The Ministry requires that local governments include both an assessment of what their successes have been, and a look ahead as to where their plans are going next,” states Brian Bedford, A/Executive Director, Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing


“A longstanding goal of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is to find a balance between supporting those local governments who are leaders, while over time raising the bar to encourage the rest. With many Water Conservation Plans being more than 5 years old, it is time for a refresh. And this is where we believe the new BC Landscape Water Calculator has a timely fit. The tool is an exciting new evolution. It would allow local governments to further support their Water Conservation Plans with the next piece of education for those who are actually turning on the taps at their homes,” stated Brian Bedford.

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LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: Unveiled in 2009, BC’s online Water Conservation Calculator decision support tool is a foundation piece for a long-term provincial strategy that aligned eligibility for infrastructure grant programs with Living Water Smart targets for improving water use efficiency and achieving water supply resiliency province-wide through Council or Board endorsed Water Conservation Plans


“Smaller communities often cannot allocate resources to traditional infrastructure projects or cannot budget for the development of water conservation and efficiency plans by service providers. The purpose of the Water Conservation Calculator is to illustrate how specific conservation measures yield both fiscal and physical water consumption savings. Water purveyors can use the tool to assist in presenting their conservation case to council and other decision makers,” stated Lisa Wright, Ministry of Community & Rural Development.

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ANNOUNCEMENT: BC Landscape Water Calculator is available to all residents of British Columbia


“A platform re-build for the BC Agriculture Water Calculator was the opportunity to spin-off the BC Landscape Water Calculator as a stand-alone tool for use by local governments and their residents. At the same time, the City of Kelowna was implementing a landscape bylaw that established an allowable water budget at the individual property scale. Therefore, it was a natural fit for the Partnership and City to collaborate in the development of the BC Landscape Water Calculator,” stated Ted van der Gulik.

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THE POTENTIAL FOR RAINWATER HARVESTING: “Every small effort by Canadians in reusing rainwater at home can help the community at large fight against climate change,” stated Donald Kim in a guest article for Waterbucket News


“Rainwater harvesting has become a rapidly trending topic in the global discourse of climate change in 2019. How can we implement a rainwater harvesting system at home in contemporary Canadian society? Let’s take a look at what rainwater harvesting is and how we can implement strategies within the community to help make a difference in response to climate change today,” wrote Donald Kim.

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ALBERTA & SASKATCHEWAN CITIES TEND TO HAVE THE MOST EXPENSIVE WATER IN CANADA: “Somewhat lost in the water-pricing discussion are the challenges that higher water rates present for low-income households,” wrote Professor Jim Warren, University of Regina


“Over the past few decades, the prices charged by municipalities for residential water and wastewater services in many Canadian cities have increased much faster than increases in the rate of inflation. The cost of municipal water and wastewater services in 93 Canadian cities shows that residential water and wastewater utility charges in 22 of those cities are exceeding international affordability benchmarks for low-income households. More than 130,000 low-income households in these 22 cities are already paying more for water than they can afford,” wrote Jim Warren.

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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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