The 2004 Water Conservation Survey conducted by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the BCWWA’s Water Sustainability Committee showed that only 18 percent of utilities are using benchmarking, while 21 percent are considering it.
As defined in Developing a Water Distribution System Renewal Plan—a best management practice created for the Ministry of Health by the BCWWA—water distribution system renewal planning (often called asset management) optimizes the life-cycle value of a utility’s physical (infrastructure) assets through effective maintenance, rehabilitation, and replacement programs.”
Developing a Water Distribution System Renewal Plan outlines two complementary approaches—top-down and bottom-up. “The top-down approach is used for strategic long-term planning of policies and programs whereas the bottom-up approach is used for short-term capital planning of projects.”
According to 2004 B.C. Water Conservation Survey results, “most utilities appear to be quite forward thinking, as evidenced by the large number that employ multiple long-term planning tools. Overall, this focus on long-term planning coincides with the large number of utilities’ implementing performance measures in the near future.”
Because we undervalue our precious water resource, we tend to overuse it and, in fact, abuse it. The apparent abundance of water is deceptive, and the capacity of our lakes and rivers – and even of the oceans – to purify the wastes we dump into them is much more limited than we once thought it was. There is a price for it: billions and billions of dollars to clean up or prevent pollution. It is becoming abundantly clear that water is not a free good. Sooner or later it presents us with a bill: the price of neglect. In many cases we pay less than the actual cost of processing and delivery. For example, irrigation water charges only recover about 10% of the actual costs of the service. The same is true, to a less extreme extent, for water costs to householders.
It’s indisputable: water is in ever-mounting demand and diminishing supply. Yet, Canadians are some of the most gluttonous water users in the world. Many believe it’s a limitless resource and that the proverbial well will never run dry. But water availability, in a form suitable for humans and ecosystem functioning, is under pressure from increasing consumption and shrinking supplies through pollution, climate change and poor management.
Even though drought has been a concern in B.C. for the past number of years, a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the BCWWA’s Water Sustainability Committee found that just one in three water utilities has embarked on a demand management program to reduce water consumption. But of the utilities that haven’t introduced a demand management program, more than half are considering doing so in the future. The majority (almost 90 percent) indicated that such a program would account for up to five percent of their operating budgets.
The Town of Gibsons has won an international competition in which being tasteless is a good thing. The Sunshine Coast municipality won the coveted title of “World's Best Water” for 2005 at the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting contest. 60 municipalities vied for the prize at the spa town of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. The water-tasting competition has been held for 15 years as part of the Winter Festival of the Waters.
The National Water Supply Expansion Program is a four-year $60 million Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada investment in secure water supplies for agriculture. The intent of the program is to improve the capacity of agricultural producers to deal with drought and other agriculturally related water supply constraints through the development and expansion on water supply systems on a cost-shared basis.
The institutions that have guided development of Canada’s water resources have been varied and have evolved in response to different and changing human and biophysical circumstances. Canadians have sought ways to promote development through providing additional storage of water, reducing variability of river flows, and redirecting and utilizing groundwater flows. Only recently have there been concerted efforts to reduce the demand for water. Harnessing water resources has often led to unintended impacts and problems, some of which are described in earlier chapters. Since water is connected through the hydrologic cycle, it is sometimes difficult to manage one water use without significantly affecting another. Many water resource problems can be termed “wicked” or “meta-problems” because they extend beyond the scope of a single government agency and level of government, and are associated with high levels of change, complexity, uncertainty and conflict (Mitchell, 2002). Differences of opinion over the goals to be achieved, and uncertainty and disagreement about the means to solve meta-problems are common. Problems can be chronic or acute, and may be bound or framed in technical, economic, legal, political and social ways. Proposed solutions will be multifaceted; hence information concerning human use and biophysical aspects of water and related resources will be required if decision making is to be adequately informed.
Urban development interferes with water resources by altering the hydrological cycle and increasing demands on provision of water services in the affected areas. Changes in the hydrological cycle include altered fluxes of water, sediment, chemicals and microorganisms, and increased releases of waste heat. In general, such changes lead to flow and sediment regime changes, geomorphological changes, impaired water quality, reduced biodiversity and overall degradation of water resources. At the same time, growing urban populations impose increasing demands on provision of water services, including water supply, drainage, wastewater collection and management, and beneficial uses of receiving waters. Integrated urban water management is used to mitigate the conflicts between urban development demands on water services and the resulting impacts on local water resources. Specific aspects of urban development impacts on receiving waters and threats to water availability for municipal water supply are addressed in this chapter. Even though the emphasis was placed on water quantity and availability issues, certain aspects of water quality are also included where appropriate.