Water Restrictions: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truth

posted in: Environment | 2

EYOG5645The Good

The restrictions are part of the new Water Shortage Response Plan (WSRP), which Metro Vancouver refers to as “one component among a complement of water management plans that ensure the provision of clean, safe drinking water and the conservation of this valuable resource.”  It is being reviewed and updated in response to last year’s activation of stages 2 and 3 water restrictions.  Good job, Metro Vancouver for being proactive with our region’s supply of drinking water.

Another good thing to remember is that even stage two restrictions should not affect the health of your lawn.  In fact, your lawn really only needs one good watering per week. Watering frequently and for shorter periods can have a negative affect on the health of your lawn by encouraging the roots to remain at the surface where they have access to water several times per week.  Watering once per week trains the roots to grow deeper in search of water, which in turn will help make the grass more adaptable during the dry season.

The Bad

The landscape is not the first place we should look when we are thinking of reducing our drinking water usage.  Putting water back into the landscape is good.  When water is cycled through the landscape it can be filtered through soil and/or returned to the atmosphere through transpiration from plants.  Guess what?  lawns are made up of plants.  A simple monoculture, but a plant nonetheless.  And guess what grass grows in?  You guessed it – soil!

Still, power-washing, an activity that sees gallons upon gallons of drinkable water poured onto hardscapes and then down a storm drain is not exempt until stage three. Additionally, one can wash their boat or car anytime they please.  Weird, right?  Last year a brown lawn was seen as a sign of solidarity – wouldn’t it be great if this year the badge of honour was a dirty vehicle?

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The overuse of drinking water is not just a problem that occurs in the summer. We still use drinking water to go pee and poo in. Think about that for a moment… we are short on drinking water yet, that’s what is in our toilet.  Throughout the year we also waste drinking water by running the tap when brushing our teeth, and having inefficient shower heads.    The good news is many municipalities require new developments to be built with water-efficient technology and water meters to track use.  Perhaps it’s time to think about implementing a program to get them into every household.

The Ugly Truth

Water shortage is an issue that is going to continue to get worse and worse as the population grows and restricting water usage in the summertime is not nearly enough to sustain our supply of drinking water.

This climate is considered to be a rain forest and in the third week of May we are already restricting water usage.  It’s alarming, really.  Especially considering that statistically in the last 25 years, the average annual rainfall over five years has remained steady.  According to information from Environment Canada, from 1991-1995 the average annual rainfall was 1,074.80mm and from 2011-2015 it was 1,097.50mm.  Essentially, we are getting approximately the same amount of rainfall as we were 25 years ago.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver estimates that the population will grow 30,000 per year over the next 25 years.  That means more toilets flushing, showers taken, dishwashers on, laundry done and on and on.  Probably the only thing that won’t increase is lawn irrigation as most of the projected population will be moving into multi-family units where there will be either no lawns or simply much smaller ones.

Watering restrictions cannot be seen as a long term solution.

We are short on water because the majority of it is lost down storm drains in the winter.   The majority of rainwater is wasted.   As more and more land gets developed, more and more water gets wasted.

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1mm of rain over 1 square meter of road, rooftop, or other non-permeable surface equates to 1 litre of water.   I live on an average suburban street that measures approximately 8.5m in width and one block is 279m or 2,371.5 square meters.  Over the last five years, my street alone has seen 2,602,721.25 litres of water wash down the storm drain PER YEAR.  Don’t even get me started on how awful it is to have the sheer volume of contaminated water entering our streams the way we have in the last few years.  That’s another post.

For now don’t worry, all is not lost.  You can contact Metro Vancouver and let them know what you think about the WSRP here  wsrp@metrovancouver.org.   Some places, like the Tap and Barrel at Olympic Village already have a grey water system.  Support these places! Many municipalities support water barrel programs and in 2014, the City of North Vancouver began using a 22,000 litre rain barrel to irrigate trees and shrubs in the summer months.  It took less than 2mm of rain falling on the roof of one of the buildings to fill said barrel. Additionally, municipalities have been working on Integrated Stormwater Management Plans since 2014.  Check with your local council member or visit your municipalities webpage to find out more.

 

 

 

 

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