Credit: Flickr / -Fuze-

Life aboard a sailboat offers good lessons on water consumption for landlubbers, too

Around the time that Vancouver was recording the city’s highest water consumption rates ever (over 2.005 billion litres of water were used on July 30th) we were hoping to fill up our boat’s water tanks on Gabriola Island. Like every Gulf Island, Gabriola doesn’t have much water and when we asked to top up our 150 litre tank, we had to plead a bit. In the end we got 100 litres—it’s all the hose owner could spare.

Water is a precious resource on a boat. Not only can it be hard to find places to fill up at but we can only carry a limited supply. Every time someone turns on a tap on our boat, I tend to notice and listen. If it continues on for more than a few seconds with no apparent reason I get twitchy. If the tap stays open for a minute, I go see who is running our limited resources down the drain.

It’s easy to take water for granted in Vancouver. Heck, it almost makes sense that a population that endures as much rain as we do ends up feeling entitled to green grass and long showers in the peak of summer. But with almost half the world expecting severe water shortages by 2030, water use is considered by many environmentalists to be an under-discussed issue.

Vancouverites typically use about 300 litres of water a day. Water use studies say we can meet our basic needs with something around 50 litres a day—so clearly we’re doing more than meeting our needs. The best way I’ve found to discover just how much water I really need has been to live on a boat for a while. Within a few days, things like quick showers and turning off the water while brushing my teeth become second nature.

Saving water doesn’t seem as urgent when the supply seems never ending though—but sustainable water use does need to become second nature, even in Vancouver.


10 easy ways to save water:

(From the City of Vancouver)

1. Plant a drought-tolerant garden

2. Use a rain barrel to collect water in the rainy months

3. Wash the car with a bucket of water and rinse with a spring-loaded shut-off nozzle

4. Install a low-flow toilet (6 litres per flush)

5. Wait for a full load before doing the laundry

6. Install a water-saving showerhead

7. Use a timer on your sprinkler

8. Let your lawn go brown [Or plant native plants instead of grass!]

9. Check and repair hose leaks

10. Water the garden by hand

Find more tips for reducing water consumption at the city's Sustainable water use guide.


100 more ways to conserve water

Also check out 100 Ways to Conserve Water for tips such as:

1. Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water, then reuse the water on your houseplants.

2. If you shorten your shower by a minute or two, you'll save up to 150 gallons per month.

3. When running a bath, plug the tub before turning the water on, then adjust the temperature as the tub fills up.

4. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons a month.

5. When washing dishes by hand, don't let the water run while rinsing. Fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water.