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April 2014 Print Issue

Why the need for saving water is becoming more important

thumb WaterWeb4Drip, drip, drip. One droplet of water after another falls from a leaky tap. No one thinks much of the dripping coming from the kitchen. It's a sound the family has gotten used to. They'll get around to fixing it sometime; it's not hurting anyone. Why bother fixing it now?

On average in Canada, 13 per cent of municipal piped water is lost to leaks such as above; this number goes up to as high as 30 per cent in some communities, according to Environment Canada.

Many Canadians are aware that their country is one of the top exporters of fresh water in the world. The Great Lakes are home to 18 per cent of the world's fresh water supply, and Canada also contains the world's largest amount of wetland area, with 25 per cent of the Earth's wetlands being found in the country.

It is perhaps due to this abundance of water that some Canadians have taken it for granted. On average, Canadians use double the amount of water compared to most other countries in the world. However, Canada is still behind the United States, which is the greatest consumer of water in the world. Meanwhile, a growing population is leading to a higher demand for water, leaving experts to wonder if Canada can keep up.

Environment Canada states that with the amount of pollution in our water, the cost for cleaning it and preventing future contamination is upwards of billions of dollars. One drop of oil renders 25 litres of water unfit for drinking, and although Canada has a significant amount of fresh water, only seven per cent of that is renewable.

A publication released by the World Water Council in 2009 stated the biggest issues with water conservation are a growing population, global economic uncertainty and climate change — issues that affect every country in the world.

Canadians may worry about clean, and safe drinking water in while travelling outside of Canada, but many rarely wonder about the water they drink at home.

Increasing pollution has affected both groundwater and surface water in Canada, and as indicated by Alberta WaterPortal's website, the cost of health problems in Canada due to water pollution is an estimated $300 million.

WHAT CAN CALGARY DO?

Leaky faucetThe City of Calgary hopes to reduce water use by 30 per cent over 30 years.
Photo by: April Lamb
On average, Calgarians use 335 litres of water a day. The current population of Calgary is 1,365,200, which means that over 450 million litres of water are being used in Calgary every single day — a number will only increase with a rising population.

In 2005, the City of Calgary recognized this problem and implemented the 30-in-30 plan to reduce Calgary's per capita water consumption. The program aims to cut water use by 30 per cent in 30 years.

Nancy Stalker, leader of customer and community initiatives at the City of Calgary water services department, helped head the 30-in-30 program and has been actively involved with water initiatives in Calgary since. She says there are many environmental initiatives the city is taking, and that the 30-in-30 program is "ahead of our schedule on terms of reaching our water goal."

Water statisticsPhoto illustration: April Lamb/ Calgary Journal

She also mentions that Calgarians who use water meters use an average of 65 litres of water a day less, a much lower amount than the average Calgarian. In Calgary, industrial customers have already been forced to begin using water metres; however, residential customers have until January 2015 to make the switch.

Already, bylaws have been implemented to help Calgary homes make the transition to more water-efficient household appliances. In houses built or renovated today, builders are required to install low-flush, six-litre toilets, as well as water metres.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Conserving water starts in the home. Stalker suggests installing low-flush toilets; the city offers a $50 rebate to anyone who replaces their old water-guzzling toilet for a new low-flush toilet that has a WaterSense label on it.

Stalker also recommends installing water metres in your home as soon as possible; regardless, these will be mandatory by 2015.

Other things that you can do include turning the tap off while brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, not running the dishwasher unless it's full and letting rainwater water your lawn.

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