Water overconsumption is catching up to us

The bottom line is that it’s not looking good for water in the Cowichan River yet again this year.

The past two years have seen significant drought periods that have seriously endangered the river flow, to the point where volunteers have trucked salmon upstream so that they could survive to spawn and create a next generation.

And that’s just the most obvious water we can see.

Our aquifers, hidden in the earth beneath our feet, are not limitless, nor are the wells that draw from them.

But in spite of this, many in the Cowichan Valley continue to scoff at warnings not to take our water for granted.

It’s not just a Cowichan mindset, either.

Environment Canada has some sobering information about our country’s water use.

It might surprise you to know that in spite of low flow toilet rebates, and other urgings to take it easy on our water supplies, Canadians have grown more gluttonous in our water consumption over the years, not less. Between 1972 and 1996, Canada’s rate of water withdrawals increased by almost 90 per cent. During that time our population increased by only 33.6 per cent.

In 2004, the average Canadian daily domestic use of fresh water per capita was 329 litres. That’s every person, every day.

No doubt about it, we overconsume.

But, many argue, Canada has tons and tons of water. Stop worrying.

According to Environment Canada, our country has only seven per cent of the world’s freshwater supply.

Sure, it’s better than if the country was mostly desert, but it’s not an endless supply, either.

Complicating that number is that 84 per cent of our population lives in a narrow band along the southern border, while 60 per cent of our water flows north to the Arctic Circle.

That puts a lot of stress on a small portion of our water reserves.

In Cowichan we can’t forget that we’re even more geographically restricted on an island. Industry use is, without a doubt, something that needs to be addressed. Industry is a big user and needs to invest in efficiencies.

But each of us also has a responsibility. So where can we conserve? Again Environment Canada has some suggestions.

Most of our water use inside the home takes place in the bathroom. So try cutting your shower time to five minutes.

More than 50 per cent of the water you apply to your lawn is lost due to overwatering. Fifty per cent! Two to three centimetres a week is generally all you need for an established lawn and garden.

The least we can do is get our average use levels back down to what they were four decades ago.