Canadians Among Worst Water Wasters

See it on Canadian Geographic’s BLOG

Forget green, going blue is the new trend. Early last week Burnaby B.C. was dubbed Canada’s first blue community for promoting public water and waste water services, recognizing water as a human right and banning or phasing out bottled water at municipal events.

While this award is a pat on the back and a shiny certificate from the Council of Canadians, it fails to mention a major concern – water consumption.

“While we encourage water conservation and reduced consumption, really our minds the major threat to water are not recognizing it as a human right, privatizing it and the excess of bottled water,” said Emma Lui, National Water Campaigner for the Council of Canadians and spokesperson for the blue community award.

Nevertheless, the Greater Vancouver area around Burnaby is above the national average for water consumption. The daily average used by people living directly around the ‘blue community’ (i.e. drinking, dish washing, cleaning)is 350 litres compared to Canada’s 329 litre average.

In truth, our country has an abysmal water use record across the board. In 2008, we placed 15th out of 16 nations in responsible water use in a report released by the Conference Board of Canada which cited our poor conservation efforts and a water pricing system that doesn’t promote efficiency. The only country that consumes more per person is our neighbour to the south.

In a country that has over two million lakes and nine per cent of the world’s renewable freshwater, it’s easy to see why we think this resource is inexhaustible. Frankly, the only incentives for us to conserve water are environmental concerns. The cost of water in Canada is a steal. We pay roughly $0.31 per cubic metre while in Ireland the cost is $0.61 and $1.28 and $2.16 in England and Germany respectively.

Industry and agriculture are the two biggest water consumers in the country, but domestic water use is responsible for 20 per cent of total use. Nationwide, 43 per cent of our communities charge a flat rate for water no matter how much is used. Another 12 per cent charge a block rate so that once set amount is consumed, the price becomes cheaper.

While 80 per cent of Canadians claim they try to conserve water, we’re still guilty of wasteful habits. We leave the tap running while rinsing dishes (44 per cent of Canadians admit) or hosing down the driveway (19 per cent). “There is an obvious disconnect between Canadians’ attitudes towards water conservation and what they’re actually doing,” said Bob Sandford, chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade.

On the heels of UN World Water Day (March 22) it’s clear that we have a long way to go before all of Canada’s cities and towns can be considered real ‘blue communities’.

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