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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.