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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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FLASHBACK TO 2004: “The vision for the waterbucket.ca website is to provide a resource rich ‘destination location’ for water sustainability in British Columbia,” stated Mike Tanner, Waterbucket Chair, at the Penticton Drought Forum hosted by the Province of British Columbia (July 2004)


“Integrated water management involves consideration of land, water, air and living organisms – including humans – as well as the interactions among them. Through partnerships, the Water Sustainability Action Plan is promoting the watershed as a fundamental planning unit. The waterbucket.ca will connect all six Action Plan Elements to provide the complete story on integrated water management – why, what, where and how – and is the key to the communication strategy for the Action Plan,” stated Mike Tanner.

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ACHIEVING WATER BALANCE: “If communities are vulnerable on the IN side of the Water Balance equation, then it would make sense to build in resiliency on the OUT side,” stated Kim Stephens when he connected the dots between the 2005 Penticton Workshop and the BC Landscape Water Calculator


“Because many factors are in play within the Water OUT = Water IN equation, an over-arching goal for sustainable water supply management would be to build in resiliency that addresses risk. There is no silver bullet. Communities need to do many little things. Over time the cumulative benefits of doing many things do add up. Consider, for example, the role of soil depth in reducing water need and preventing water runoff. To adapt to a changing water cycle, soil depth as an absorbent sponge is a primary water management tool,” stated Kim Stephens.

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ADAPTING TO THE NEW REALITY OF LONGER, DRIER SUMMERS: Unlike other regions and countries, the water supply challenge in British Columbia’s mountainous environment is that seasonal water storage potential is limited – such that there is little margin for operational error even though our droughts are measured in months rather than years!


“Consider our recent experience. For five straight years, from 2015 through 2019, British Columbia repeatedly dodged a bullet due to the new reality of longer, drier summers. 2020 was different. It was a wet year. This is why we must not be lulled as we emerge from winter and look ahead to summer. Once upon a time, a 5-month drought was considered possible but unlikely. And then it happened. A 6-month drought was considered improbable in the rain forest. And then it too happened – in 2015. In the big picture of water demand, our water supply lakes and reservoirs are mere puddles,” stated Kim Stephens.

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FLASHBACK T0 2005: “People have no difficulty reconciling personal long-term and short-term decisions, yet are challenged when it comes to reconciling short-term political versus long-term community planning decisions,” stated Robert Hicks, Metro Vancouver Senior Engineer, at the Penticton Workshop that launched the Convening for Action in British Columbia initiative


“The solutions to short-term risks are long-term: it is a continuum. In my presentation I explained why commitment to the long-term is so important. And I elaborated on the differences in approaches between short-term and long-term visions, and why we need to understand these differences. A key message revolved around the importance of lingo in communicating with decision-makers, and how messages can easily be lost in translation when language is not used effectively,” stated Robert Hicks.

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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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