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Canada’s Blue Gold

Canada contains 21 percent of the 0.8 percent of total freshwater in the world. In an article by the Ottawa Citizen, they dub water as the 21st century’s “Blue Gold.” Luckily for Canada, it is one of its most abundant resources. Unluckily for Canada, the statistics are deceiving.

However, with the increasing number of countries worldwide facing water shortages and droughts, the only water that really matters is renewable water resources such as rainfall and snow melt. Canada has less than 10 percent of the world’s renewable water.

Most of this freshwater comes from the Great Lakes, which is already in danger of “over-pumping.” According to the article, even though many people and media sources revile bottled water as wasteful water use (which it is), more H2O is used to create milk, soft drinks, beer and products. Many fear that water is being wasted in the industrial sector, but according to figures, most water drawn from the Great Lakes are used to run hydro electric plants or to cooling resources for industrial processes and immediately returned to the source.

Pollution and invasive creatures threaten the Great Lakes as well. Because large shipping boats dump their ballasts into the lake, they also release hundreds of volatile and invasive creatures, further polluting the water. Frankly, there are also heavy signs of simple pollution from domestic dishwashers and agricultural processes.

With all this in mind, it goes to show that water is building steam (no pun intended) as we lunge head first into this new century. Oil is on everyone’s mind these days, but humanity can survive without oil, we can’t last three days without water. Wasting water is easy, conserving water is easier. You do the math.

Read the entire article here.

California Government Takes the Reigns on Water Conservation

The fires in California continue to rage, but a larger issue looms for the most populous state in the Union: the impending water crisis. The state has been in a drought for two years now and if it continues for another year, it will be the worst drought in California history.

Fire and Water 

The state of California largely depends on water from three primary sources. First, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, the Colorado River and finally the current water-storage system. Each of these sources are facing impending crises.

Here are some facts from an LA Times article By Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dianne Feinstein.

The snowpack, which was measured at only 67% of normal in May, has become dangerously unreliable because of global warming. It is estimated that climate change will cause the state’s snowpack to drop by 25% to 40% by 2050.

The Colorado River Basin just experienced an eight-year drought, and the amount of water that California is allowed to take from the river has dropped by 18% from 2003.

Reservoirs are dangerously low statewide. Lake Oroville, California’s second-largest storage reservoir, will end this year with its lowest amount of water in more than 30 years. Shasta Reservoir, the state’s largest, is at 48% of capacity.

At the same time that our water reserves are low, the courts have ordered restrictions on how much water can be pumped out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, reducing water supplies by 20% to 30%. Just last week, a judge ordered state and federal regulators to come up with a plan to provide more water for salmon in the delta. This interim plan likely will require more reductions in pumping this winter.

The California population is expected to grow to 50 million within the next decade. The California government is attempting to enact legislation to store water in wet years for use in the dry years. However, Governor Schwarzenegger has admitted “clearly, the state is in crisis. Yet, to this point, we’ve been unable to forge a common path forward.” He knows the issue is one that must be acted upon swiftly. It all starts with a choice and we have the power to make an immediate impact, regardless of location, age, race, sex and occupation.

World News: China Relocates Population Due to Water Crisis

Just six weeks before Beijing launches the 2008 Summer Olympics, the city is facing a massive water crisis that might force residents to move to surrounding cities. In the coming decades, the city will start resettling it’s residents to nearby cities with adequate water supplies.

 

Beijing may be headed towards an economic collapse due to the current water crisis.

According to Grainne Ryder, policy director with the Canadian-based Probe International, predicts that Beijing could run out of water in five to ten years. Ryder also warns that along with running out of water, the city will be forced into an economic collapse.

More alarming is that Beijing is now relying on groundwater for the city’s sustanance because the local rivers and reseviors are drying up. The groundwater was originally slated to be used during emergencies such as natural disasters or wars.

For the full article, please click here

Interview With the City of Vancouver’s Water Conservation Manager

WaterDrop was pleased to interview the City of Vancouver’s Water Conservation Manager, Jennifer Bailey last week about Vancouver and it’s water conservation efforts. As you can see from the interview below, Vancouver has seen some great progress over the years and is on a trend towards greater sustainability. Check out the entire interview, there is tons of helpful information and tips!

City of Vancovuer

1.Tell us a little about yourself and what you do for the City of Vancouver.

Water Conservation Program Manager.  Promote water conservation through public engagement of indoor and outdoor water use; manage incentive programs (water efficiency kits and rain barrels); provide education on the lawn sprinkling and, when required, enforcement of regulations; support City Farmer waterwise demonstration garden; administer elementary school plays on water conservation (see http://www.vancouver.ca/engsvcs/watersewers/environment/AtoZ.htm)

2.How important to you is water conservation?

Water conservation just makes sense.  It is about sustainable use of water to ensure affordable and equitable supply of drinking water into the future.  We are in the enviable position of having protected source waters, supplying us with high-quality water at the turn of the tap.  However, with a growing population, the demand on this resource is increasing.  Becoming “water wise” through simple things such as retrofitting with water efficient fixtures and turning water guzzling lawns into gardens of drought-resistant plants, are great small steps for delaying costly expansions of our drinking water system.

3.What is your take on the global water crisis on a global, national and local level?

Access to a clean supply of water is essential for life.  In Canada, we are fortunate to have about 6.5% of the world supply of fresh water.  However, a need for sustainable water use on a national level within this seeming abundance, is supported by Canadians ranked as one of the largest per capita waters users (next to the US), supply by region (certain regions in Canada already have water shortages), and the relationship between water (storage, treatment, transport, and waste water treatment) and energy output and associated GHG emissions.

On a local level, we are seeing the average per-capita consumption drop, yet an overall increase in demand due to population growth.  Per capita water use in all categories, residential through industrial, in the City of Vancouver has dropped to 542 litres per day in 2007 from 583 litres in 2006 and 764 litres in 1986.  Contributing factors are the installation of more water efficient fixtures (replacing the old 20 litre toilets with low-flow six litre toilets, low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, water-efficient washing machines), lawn sprinkling restrictions, and a shift towards more people living in smaller and more water efficient housing options.  Thus, the focus of the water conservation program is demand side management to reduce customer usage, through behaviour-based education and plumbing code modifications, as a means to delay costly water system infrastructure expansions.

4.How long have Vancouver’s water conservation and sustainability efforts been in place?

The City has taken a proactive approach to water conservation by implementing a variety of education and incentive programs in the early 90’s and amending the Vancouver Building by-law to require low flow fixtures on all new development.  A brief timeline of the City’s water conversation initiatives is found below:

· 1993: lawn sprinkling regulations introduced; elementary school play on water conservation called “A2Z of H2O” was written and performed in all Vancouver  (program has since expanded into other Metro Vancouver municipalities); and the replacement of an inclining block rate structure (where high volume users get price break) with a uniform rate for metered customers

· 1995: Ultra-low flow toilets, showerheads, aerating faucets, recirculating cooling systems and ornamental fountains mandated in new building construction; subsidized rain barrel program

· 1997: promotion of waterwise gardening through City Farmer

· 2002: Campaign on natural lawn care, “Grow Natural” Program

· 2005: Indoor water saving kit introduced

· 2006: Outdoor water saving kit introduced

· 2007: Lawn sprinkling door-to-door contact pilot; low flow spray valve installed in 750 restaurants; Vancouver Green Building Strategy being developed;

· 2008: Waterwise landscape guideline currently being developed

5. What do you think Vancouver’s role is in water conservation and sustainability on a national level?

City of Vancouver is a supporter Canadian Water and Wastewater Association and active member.  The City also supports National initiatives that are appropriate for our local environment.

6. What is Vancouver currently doing to be a water sustainable city?

· Green Building Strategy – promoting energy and water efficiency in buildings.

· Green Homes Program – proposing building by-law changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase in-building water efficiency. http://www.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/CBOFFICIAL/greenbuildings/greenhomes/

· Promoting waterwise gardening – establishing waterwise guidelines for use by developers and property owners doing landscape work.

Sewers separation program – separating sanitary systems from storm water to avoid combined system overflow events, and reduce stress on wastewater treatment facilities.

Rain water management – treating rain water runoff as a resource through integration into rain gardens, vegetated swales, and providing opportunities for rain water to naturally percolate into the ground to recharge ground water. (http://www.vancouver.ca/engsvcs/watersewers/environment/integratedDrain.htm)

7.What do you think of the state of awareness of water conservation efforts in Vancouver?

People have been very supportive of the City’s water conservation efforts.  Some good indicators of this are: no opposition to low-flow fixtures mandated in new development, excellent uptake of incentive programs, and success of sprinkling regulations.  In the City of Vancouver alone, the sprinkling regulation demand side management measure has resulted in saving excess of $10 million through the avoidance of transmission capacity upgrades.

8.Where would you like to see Vancouver in the future? What are Vancouver’s goals?

Water goals: to ensure long term reliable supply of water for a growing customer base through water loss management (controlling leakage) and working with customers on demand side management programs.   The key drivers for conservation programs are water use reductions that allow for the deferral of costly supply and storage capacity increasing infrastructure projects, and reduced impact on the environment from supply increasing infrastructure construction work and less energy consumed by pump stations.

9.What are some good resources for people to find out more about saving water?

Vancouver.ca/water

gvrd.bc.ca/water

10.What can people do to be more water conscious and get involved with this initiative?

Take advantage of City’s incentive programs – indoor and outdoor water saving kits, and rain barrels.

If you have a lawn, let it go dormant in the summer, or if you must water, once a week (2.5 cm of water) is all you need for a healthy lawn.

Fix leaking toilets and faucets.  A leaking toilet can waste 150 litres a day.

 

Thanks to Jennifer and the City of Vancouver for the interview!

Picture of the Week

Saving water, one black ball at a time.

This interesting photo was taken in Los Angeles, California. The Department of Power of Los Angeles is attempting to protect the precious Ivanhoe water reservoir from evaporation by the sun with these tiny, 4-inch balls. The balls also protect the water from being contaminated by carcinogen bromate, which forms when sunlight mixes with the bromide and chlorine in the reservoir water. The plan attempts to install 400,000 of these water-protecting balls at a time, for an eventual total of 3 million, to protect the 7 acre reservoir.

Water and Corporate Social Responsibility

WaterDrop often highlights some of the negative water news going on throughout the world, and this is because in general, most events paint a fairly bleak outlook on the state of water. Droughts, sanitation, pollution, and countless other issues are beginning to break through mainstream media.

But what about the other side of things? What are people and companies doing to make a difference?

GE Goes Blue with a Purification Plant in China

With the latest greenification trends sweeping business and politics, it is sometimes difficult to take companies seriously when their “green” initiatives seem to be aimed at creating an image boost rather than tangible results. But this is not always the case.

General Electric, the giant corporation with businesses ranging from manufacturing jet engines to commercial lending, started up it’s ‘Ecomagination‘ program 3 years ago, and has made significant inroads to being a more sustainable company. Recently, GE has shifted it’s attention on water. It aims to cut its water usage 20 percent by 2012, a move that should reduce its annual operating costs by $15 million to $20 million. Lorraine Bolsinger, vice president of Ecomagination, said in a recent interview to Reuters, “There is going to be a price on water that is going to reflect its scarcity, and today it doesn’t.

Global company Coca-Cola also has saved over 18.6% of its water usage since 2003.

But what about smaller local companies? Is there anything they can do?

Being a water sustainable company can be as simple as adding toilet bags to company toilets, or low flow aerators for taps. If you are business or an individual that has taken water saving intitives, WaterDrop would love to hear from you. Please send us your information as well as your story and we will profile you in an upcoming post.

waterdropmovement@gmail.com

World News: Our Neighbor is High and Dry

Does it feel that serious water issues and droughts are far away in distant lands like Africa? We don’t have to look any further than California. A mere 14 hour drive from Vancouver, B.C.

California, which is an economic behemoth in the United States, is currently under the worst drought in over 20 years. Droughts come and go, but the key difference here is that development is slowing (and ceasing in some areas) because builders are having a difficult time finding long-term water supplies.

Drought In California

Worst Drought in Decades is Sweeping California

Conserving water does not only have an effect on the environment, but it can affect everyone’s pocketbook. A slowing economy due to a lack of water is a serious issue that effects every single person. Why not take advantage of our resources and maintain an attitude of sustainability to prepare for situations that are happening in California?

It would be wise to take heed to the water issue in California. For example, in California, 1,500 new home projects have been delayed indefinitely due to the fact that “the city doesn’t have enough water to adequately serve the development,” according to Paul Hood, the executive officer of the commission that approves the annexations and incorporations of cities in the Los Angeles region. Yes, Vancouver maybe surrounded by water from the ocean, rivers, lakes and the sky, but we have the chance to prevent problems rather than react to them.

The California governor, Mr. Schwarzenegger, has know turned his focus onto developing water conservation and quality improvement programs and has propsed a $11.9 billion dollar bond for water management investments. California is doing something, but is it too late? We won’t know until much later, but this is for certain, let’s act on the water crisis and not react to it.

More info on the drought can be found here and here

World News: Desparate Times In New England

I found an interesting article today about New England opening a desalinization plant despite its seemingly abundant water resources. The full article can be found here

Desalinization Plant

Desalinization Plant in New England

Despite abundant lakes and good rainfall, weak groundwater resources have crimped economic growth in some areas. As a result, the first big New England desalination plant turning brackish (salt water, fresh water mix) into fresh is expected to go online in Massachusetts this month.

That surprises some people, but not Robert Tannenwald, an economist and director of the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Two years ago he did a study showing that New England – contrary to public perceptions – is not at all water-rich region, but one that needs to manage its water supplies more carefully and look for new sources.

“There’s still a general mind-set [in New England] that water as a resource is not in scarce supply – but it is,” Mr. Tannenwald says. “We waste a lot of water. There’s a lot of leaky pipes around here. So economics has to kick in and water has to be priced accordingly for the waste to stop.”

Tannenwald’s statement about the general mind-set of New Englanders, is not just limited to the north eastern United States. Living in the very water rich environment of Vancouver, it is sometimes easy to slip into this mentality. However, with Canada’s fresh water resources limited, it is important to note that Vancouver and Canada as a whole are not impervious to a water scarcity.

Metro-Vancouver is expected to grow 34% to just under 2.9 million people over the next 20 years, and our fresh water supply will have to keep up. In the article, the author points to economic growth as the main motivator for the desalinization plant, as without it, New England’s economy would not be able to expand. It would truly be a shame for Vancouver to have to go through the same scenario, limiting it’s economic potential for a situation as preventable and responsible as water conservation and sustainability.

Water Nation

Who do you think uses the most water in the world? Automatically, most of us here in Canada, as well as the rest of the world will look southward to our neighbor, the United States, which happens to be true. Who do you think comes in second? Canada. That is an answer must of us would not expect.

Water: Quietly overlooked.

Canada is a proactive nation when it comes to conservation. We try to drive less, we turn down our fire places and furnaces, we use energy-conserving light bulbs and many other activities, but one blaring aspect that we overlook is conserving water. The Vancouver public maintains an opinion that since it rains here in abundance, that freshwater is readily available in copious amounts. However, consider the fact that we receive a great deal of our freshwater from glacier run-off and we only receive 40 percent of rain water (the rest drains northward to inaccessible regions). We don’t have as much freshwater as you may think. Canada does have an abundance of fresh water, placing third in the world, but that does not mean that water will not be an issue now and in the near future. Even with the world’s third largest freshwater supply, there are currently water issues all over Canada. Most of Canada’s population is centered around the Great Lakes, which is currently having massive water issues. One in three Canadians live around the Great Lakes and water levels there are at a historic low. The conditions are worsening. Canada is having water issues, yet we keep using more and the population continues to boom.

As we have stated in some of our previous blogs, on average, each Canadian uses 335 litres of water, not just in a week, but every single day. That’s 2,345 in a week, 9,380 in a month and 112,560 in a year. Phew! Hold your breath. That’s 49,683,984,000 litres a year for British Columbia’s population alone. Even more mind-boggling is that Canadians as a whole use double the amount of freshwater than Europeans do. There’s more. Guess where water consumption is decreasing? The United States. Now take a guess who’s water consumption is increasing? Canada. Our water consumption has increased nearly 25 percent in the past decade alone and there are no signs of letting up. Think about it this way, we could be using 25,000,000,000 litres a year. If those Europeans can survive on 170 litres a day, than we can do it.

Check out this article from the Vancouver Sun. It is pretty eye-opening.

UPDATE: June 17-2008. Reader Chris Murphy lets us know about this..

How’s this for Canadian Water preservation: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/06/16/condemned-lakes.html

Mining companies get big subsides on the back of Canadian fresh water.

Can Water Go Green?

In an article by the New York Times, Fiji water is overhauling their marketing strategy to “Go Green.” Fiji water claims to be the purest of all bottled water . They claim to be artesian water. By definition, this is water that comes from a source deep within the earth. The water is thus protected by many layers of clay and rock. This water source is protected from air, which prevents it from being exposed to environmental pollutants and other contamination.

The world’s purest bottled water company still needs an image-adjustment?

However, with this still in mind, Fiji water is going through a major overhaul to gain an image that they are going green. Admittedly, they are taking steps to lessen their carbon emissions. For example, they are shipping not only to Los Angeles, but to Philadelphia as well, a move that lowered carbon emissions. This re-evaulation stems from media pressure. However, the bottled water industry is still seeing exponential growth annually. Some 3 billion bottles were sold last year. For this year, a 14 percent growth is projected. People just can’t get enough of bottled water, but why are bottled water companies trying to tailor their images to be green? Because they know there is a looming water crisis and having a wasteful image does not bode well for the their financial future.

Check out the article here.


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