Since 1993, March 22nd has been World Water Day as designated by the United Nations. The day is marked to help raise awareness about the basic human right we all share to access safe drinking water. Here in Canada it is also Canada Water Week, (March 14-22, 2013) developed to incorporate World Water Day.  The point of these days is to highlight the right to every person’s access to safe drinking water. 

This year’s focus is water cooperation. Around the world, there are 276 transboundary river basins. Actions taken by any country regarding water use can affect downstream water flow and quality. Cooperation is essential among nations to ensure peace and the best water management. The UN has a page of facts concerning water consumption and the effect of increasing populations and climate change. It’s pretty scary, but can be managed if approached in a coordinated, rational manner (Source).

World Water Day’s objective is to highlight water concerns around the world. While we Canadians count ourselves lucky to have an abundant supply of fresh water, we should probably stop short of patting ourselves on the back. Crumbling urban infrastructure means that many cities are having difficulty dealing with sewage and water treatment. Further, a report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has estimated that it will cost about $80 billion to replace waste water treatment plants and pipes, drinking water delivery pipes and storm water pipes that are in “fair” to “very poor” condition across Canada (Source).

Canadians are the second biggest water users per capita of all OECD countries (Source). To make matters worse, many OECD countries have been decreasing their water consumption per capita (including the US), while, since 1980, Canadians have increased water consumption by 25%.  Part of the reason that Canadians are water hogs is because a realistic price hasn’t been attached to the water we use. In many municipalities a flat rate is charged, which, of course, doesn’t lead to conservation behaviour. If you view something as a low-value resource, then you will treat it as such. Leaks will go unfixed, faucets will be left on to brush teeth and do dishes, there is no incentive to buy water efficient appliances. Moreover, if there isn’t an effort by city hall to raise awareness of the importance of water conservation through public policy, people won’t see it as an issue of concern.

As Canadian cities’ populations increase, the need for potable water will also increase. Demands on cities’ water infrastructure will be tested to their maximum, which is why implementing water conservation measures is more urgent than most people realize. Water conservation at business, institutional and residential levels will give municipalities some time to upgrade their water infrastructure and pricing water fairly is the easiest way to motivate people to think about conservation.

I’ve written many articles on products that will help you conserve water. I’ve written about low-flow fixtures, rain barrels,  and gray water systems. Look in the Water Efficiency section of the Resource Guide for products and information on water efficiency. But there are other ways to cut water use that you might not even consider, and, in fact, you can make an even bigger dent in water conservation by altering a few of your weekly purchases. The infographic comes thanks to Loch Ness Water Gardens in South Carolina. Some of the stats are surprising. You might have already been aware that beef production uses the most water of any meat production (1850 gallons (US) to produce 1 pound of beef), but did you know that your morning coffee needs 2500 gallons of water? It only takes 8 gallons of water to produce a pound of tea. The infographic also gives you suggestions on how modifying your behaviour will help you save water, such as switching out your high flow shower head to a low flow fixture, or switching from drinking milk to beer (?) — great excuse for the legal-aged drinkers in the crowd, but maybe not so helpful for the kids (I can hear my teenagers now: “But Mom, it’s better for the environment”).

Courtesy of: Loch Ness Water Gardens

BEC Green

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