Water, water, water…
News that the City of Gatineau has banned the outdoor use of water by its residents and businesses should not come as a big surprise to anyone after the fairly dry winter we just experienced in this part of the world.
City of Gatineau spokesman Alain d’Entremont said the ban covers any external use of water, including filling pools, outdoor cleaning and watering gardens or lawns.
Homeowners caught breaking the ban face fines starting at $250, while businesses face fines beginning at $500.
D’Entremont said the city is also asking residents to curb indoor usage if possible and “take a quick shower instead of a bath.”
The city said residents used over 110 million litres of water on Tuesday alone. That number is high for this time of year but low compared to peak summer levels, when Gatineau residents use from 660 to 880 litres per person, or close to 200 million litres in total.
Lower-than-average snowpacks across B.C. could spell low stream flows and water shortages this summer. The situation is serious enough to have prompted the Environment Ministry to develop a 2010 Drought Response Plan.
Alberta faces a water shortage, along with threats to its environment and economy, unless the province adopts better water-management policies, according to a study released Thursday by the C.D. Howe Institute.
It is estimated that Canada will face a “forty percent water shortage in the next 20-30 years” said (Ontario Minister of the Environment) Garretson and the implementation of laws on water saving faucets and toilets are a very real possibility.
So people are indeed beginning to realise that our water is under threat and that there may be some direct impacts on our daily lives due to shortages.
We can, of course, lessen our individual households’ impact on the water supply by watering the non-productive domestic agricultural operations (i.e. lawns) less frequently or in the evening. Using low-flow toilets and other water-saving equipment also helps. But the biggest impact on water conservation would be if the industrial sector cut back on their water usage for their production processes – I hear that the tar sands use a, uh, few litres or more for their extraction operations…
And there there is the issue of water exports. Should we export our water in a bulk fashion… millions of litres to places like the U.S. Midwest to keep those folks from getting too thirsty? I don’t have a problem with limited exports, but I get a little craw in my throat when I hear these American states crying for water whilst wasting millions of litres keeping their lawns green and golf courses running… gimme a break.
So what have the ReformCons done? Well, they actually have moved on this issue by tightening restrictions on bulk water exports. This is a good thing, but they should go even further and close up a loophole under the NAFTA that could make water a tradable commodity and thus exempt it from domestic restrictions. As well, the legislation may not be as tight as it could be:
Joe Cressy, campaign coordinator for the Polaris Institute, a left-leaning think tank, said the bill is based on an earlier Senate bill, “which leaves some fairly striking loopholes that allow corporations to continue exporting Canada’s freshwater.”
“It appears the bill will continue a provision that allows for up to 50,000 litres of water a day to be exported in packaged form,” Cressy said in an email. “In other words, Canada will export its water resources in the form of bottled water in daily large quantities.”
But this move is a start, and I’ll (cringe) give credit where credit is due…