The average Canadian uses 329 Litres of water per day --3 times more water than the average European, and 8 times more water than the average U.K. citizen. In the world, we are second only to the U.S. in the amount of water we waste!
Historically, Canadians have felt that water is in abundant supply. In reality, 60% of Canada's freshwater drains to the north, while 85% of the population lives in a skinny area along our southern border. This “myth of abundance” is responsible for our wasteful water use practices, which are contributing to regular water shortages, problems with drinking water, and environmental decline. These consequences are now being compounded by climate change.
Typically, water managers have preferred to build dams, pipes, and pumps to transport water across the landscape to supply growing cities and irrigated agriculture. Today, it is becoming clear that re-engineering the natural hydrology of regions is unsustainable and extremely harmful for local ecosystems and communities. A better approach is to embrace a "softer" approach to water management, which better re-balances demand management over standard “built” supply-oriented solutions to water challenges. It recognizes that we need to manage water by working within our natural environments rather than the traditional “hard” approach that seeks to control or manipulate these complex systems – usually with disastrous consequences down the road.
The benefits of water conservation include:
- It is more ecologically sensitive as ‘new’ water comes from a reduction in existing water use, rather than an increase in supply. Meanwhile, the ecological damage of developing more and more supply is indisputable. Dams and diversions fragment river ecosystems. Bigger pumps built to bring groundwater to the surface drain ponds, wetlands and streams, undermining the health of these critical ecosystems.
- Reducing water demand through conservation and efficiency is the cheaper alternative to almost any supply-side option. From an economic perspective, maximizing the efficiency of existing infrastructure and minimizing the need for future expansion reduces costs.
- Water conservation reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Building the infrastructure for supply-side options and the pumping that is often required to transport water both require vast amounts energy. Currently, this energy is produced from fossil fuels or nuclear reactors leaving a legacy of more greenhouse gas emissions and toxic waste for future generations.
- The demand-side approach also builds resilience in a society faced with change. Decentralized and small-scale solutions can be implemented incrementally, enhancing local capacity to adapt to an increasingly uncertain future of changing economies, changing social values and a changing climate.
What Can You Do?
1) Personal actions - save water at home.
2) Express your political voice - push governments to make it easier for citizens to conserve. How?
• Write to/call your mayor/council members.
• Write to/call your MPP/MLAs.
3) Join citizen/environmental groups that promote water conservation – we exercise influence through the numbers that we represent.
Saving Water at Home - Tips
- 75% of the water you use in your home is consumed in the bathroom. Of all indoor water use, toilets account for 45% and showers 30%. Laundry accounts for 20% and drinking and cooking, only 5%.
- Installing a low-flush toilet, an efficient showerhead and a faucet aerator will reduce indoor water use by 35 %.
- Front loading washing machines use up to 40% less water and 70% less energy than regular washing machines.
- Planting native and low-water use plants (called ‘xeriscaping’) can reduce outdoor water use by 50%.
Saving Water as a Community
A good resource for personal reading but also to reference in communications with your local politicians is: Thinking Beyond Pipes and Pumps: Top 10 Ways Communities Can Save Water and Money