Many Canadian municipalities have adopted water conservation or water efficiency programs. Different initiatives have been employed, as no one program suits every municipality, and they have proven successful in reducing water demands and saving capital and operating costs.
B.C.’s water purveyors are finding it increasingly difficult to supply the water needs of a growing population. When the effects of climate change, global warming, and an increase in the frequency and severity of drought occurrences are added, the situation becomes even more difficult. Water supply must be maintained even during times of drought. Developing new sources of water is often prohibitively expensive or is simply not possible. Therefore, to withstand the effects of drought, efforts must be made to conserve water resources that are currently being utilized.
In an attempt to reduce overall water consumption and peak flows, many communities are encouraging residents to use water more efficiently. There are many ways to decrease water use in the home, and some people need to be taught these methods, while others need to be reminded of the importance of water conservation. Education for the residential sector is an important and effective part of any community’s water management plan.
In many areas of B.C., water consumption by the agricultural and ICI (industrial, commercial, institutional) sectors represents a significant percentage of the total water use. In some areas, the irrigation of agricultural lands accounts for most of the water supplied by the local utilities. For this reason, the implementation of water conservation initiatives is essential for these sectors. To ensure large-scale acceptance and participation in water conservation programs, these water users must be educated as to why conservation is important, and how it can be done.
A 2004 Water Conservation Survey conducted by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the BCWWA’s Water Sustainability Committee indicated that few utilities are using any formal economic or financial tools to promote water conservation. The most widely used tool—analysis and study of universal metering or a metering pilot—is employed by just one in three utilities surveyed, and is being considered by just over one in four. Other tools employed include cost/benefit analysis, assessment of pricing structures, and service charges. While assessing pricing structures is not currently widespread, nearly half of utilities surveyed do appear to be considering implementing this in the future.
Municipal governments across Canada are beginning to take action to manage the demand for water, instead of seeking new sources of supply. Demand management, incorporating water efficient applications, is rapidly gaining popularity as a low cost, effective way to get more service out of existing systems, thus delaying or deferring the need for constructing new works. The benefits of water-efficient techniques apply equally well to rural, private wells and septic disposal systems, as they do to central water and sewer systems in the city.