The Truth About Vancouver's Thirsty Habits
Image by Flickr / daspunkt
British Columbians' water use is the highest in the world—but with the population on the rise and a dwindling water supply, we have to learn how to use less
Considering my last two posts have been complaints about the rain—it’s sort of ironic that this one is about saving water.
But I took this water-use quiz, and failed. I’d like to pretend that the reason I failed is because it’s a US quiz and that we in Canada use less water. But in truth, British Columbians use more. On average Canadians use about 329 litres or 87 US gallons per day to the US rate of 100 gallons a day. But in BC we use a whopping 490 litres per person per day. More water per capita than any other country in the world—and about two to three times what people in Europe use.
So I think the real reason I failed is because as British Columbians we simply don’t care about our water use that much… But the problem is the amount of water we’re flushing away is simply not sustainable—even in rainy Vancouver. And with an expected population increase in Metro Vancouver of 800,000 more people by 2025, we either need to learn to conserve water—or we’ll have to pay for a whole lot of new infrastructure like dams and water treatment plants. And even then we’ll still have to learn to live within our means during the dawning age of water scarcity.
The crazy thing is saving water isn’t that hard. Vancouverites only actually drink a very small amount of the more than one billion litres we flush down the drains every day. So here are some of the tips I gleaned from both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Environment Canada:
Appliances for saving water
Switch to a low-flow faucet. Faucets account for about 15 percent of indoor household water use. But a low-flow faucet can reduce a sink's water flow by 30 percent or more. Moen (available at Home Hardware stores) recently introduced new eco-performance kitchen faucets (that can switch between three water-flow settings) to go along with their entire line of WaterSense certified products. As the EPA’s 2010 WaterSense Manufacturer Partner of the Year, Moen has been doing a great job in producing water conserving products—an effort that resulted in saving some 36 billion gallons of water in 2009.
Replace your old toilet with a new low-flush model. Old toilets manufactured prior to 1980 take about 15 to 20 litres per flush. While toilets sold during the '80s and early '90s use about 13 litres per flush. But new low-flush toilets use as little as 4.1 litres per flush, making them a huge water saver.
Switch to high-efficiency washing machine and dishwasher. When it’s time to replace your old washing machine or dishwasher consider a water-saving model. High-efficiency washers use about 40 percent less water than a standard machine while dishwashers can save 25 percent.
Six more water saving tips
1. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge rather than running the tap for each glass.
2. Only run the dishwasher when it’s full.
3. Check for leaks around you faucets and toilets.
4. Take a five-minute shower rather than a bath—a short shower uses about a third of the water.
5. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. This can save up to 30 litres of water per day, or 900 litres a month.
6. Collect rain water during the fall and winter months for use in the garden and yard during Vancouver's dry summer season.