Thursday, May 19, 2011

Treat water like a precious resource (because it is!)

When I was in grade six my teacher asked who in the class left the water running while brushing their teeth. I can’t recall my answer but I do remember that the idea of wasting water was quite a revelation. That was in the late 1970’s. Thirty some years later a considerable number of Canadians continue to view clean water as a bottomless resource (and leave the tap running while they brush their teeth).

Canadians in general take our abundance of clean water for granted and it’s that laissez-faire attitude that puts this precious resource most at risk. Although we hold seven percent off the world’s renewable freshwater (and some 20 percent of fresh water overall) this resource is threatened every day. Climate change is impacting our fresh water stores as glaciers melt and weather patterns change. Industry uses vast amounts of fresh water and often pollutes rivers and groundwater. Many scientists, those who understand best the real threat of water scarcity, believe the government is doing little to protect our fresh water from pollution, overuse and bulk exporting.

Then there is your average Canadian who uses the resource with abandon. The average Canadian's water usage is 125,000 litres of water per person per year and New Brunswickers on average use 152,000 litres. (The average European uses 73,000 litres.)

Are you curious where you net out for water use? There are a couple of online tools that help you calculate your water footprint, highlight the real water hogs in your household and provide tips on how to reduce your usage.

Environment Canada has an online calculator that takes about three minutes to complete. You click through questions ranging from how many washes you do a week to whether or not you water your lawn. The final tally shows your usage alongside your provincial average and the national average.

If you want to see real-time where you use the most water and how changes to your daily habits can impact your overall score visit This simple tool helps measure your water use in the yard, the kitchen, laundry, and in the bathroom, and recalculates on the fly so you can see what a difference changing to low flow toilets or shortening your showers can make to your annual consumption.

We can all cut our household water use, simply by making small changes in our everyday life:

• Take shorter showers (5 min or less).

• Don’t leave the tap running while you brush your teeth.

• Install low flow shower heads and faucet aerators, which can cut your sink and shower water usage nearly in half.

• Choose water efficient appliances like front-loading washing machines and low flow toilets.

• Keep a jug of drinking water in the fridge rather than letting your tap run to get cold water.

• Let Mother Nature wash your car and water your lawn. Or, to water your gardens or lawn set up a rain barrel to collect rainwater. (Hardware stores carry the necessary supplies.) If you do water with a sprinkler, remember that oscillating sprinklers lose as much as 50% of what they disperse through evaporation.

Make sure water conservation crosses your mind when you shower, flush and turn on the garden hose this summer.

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