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Water conservation a must as city expands

I had to rationalize that really hot bath in the soaker tub last night.

I had to rationalize that really hot bath in the soaker tub last night.

Sure, it was way more water than I needed, and I hate to think of the carbon burned heating the water by gas. But it felt so good.

I told you there would be rationalization. It’s my kids. They avoid baths and showers at every turn. They never take a bath or shower unless I make a formal request.

Their attitude might be the way of the future.

Water, it’s said, will be the new oil. We can’t make more of it. And the population is growing.

Here in Calgary, drought and lack of water is one of the biggest threats.

Scientists believe in just six years our summer demands will exceed the amount of water we’re allowed to take from the rivers. As Calgary doubles its population in the coming decades, we’ll need to cut our consumption in half.

We face a number of realities. Under a licence, we can only take a certain amount of water from the Elbow and Bow rivers. At the same time, climate change means hotter weather for this area. This means more volatile weather, less rain and snow, and more water loss through evaporation.

Calgary gets its water from two rivers, the Bow and the Elbow, which are fed by glaciers. Normally, the glaciers are replenished with snow each year. But warmer temperatures means less snowfall, and receding glaciers. And as the water flows down, it evaporates at a greater rate.

Tension is building. Look south to fights over water licences in the American Midwest and you get the idea.

Conservation, as ho hum as it seems, is the answer. And there is reason for hope. Despite growing to one million from 650,000, the city doesn’t use more water, say city officials. That’s because we have better technologies, including low flush toilets, new pipes, and increased awareness. Our per capita water usage has been dropping, and that factors in all businesses and people.

On the plus side, as well, Calgarians pay full freight for water in terms of the cost of collecting and treating it. Our water isn’t subsidized. But with a growing city, you can expect a few changes. City officials question whether using potable water to water lawns, or flushing a toilet make sense. They’d like more use of water barrels, and water harvesting.

The water department will present its 2008 report to council this month. Certainly, any way to make conservation sexy and give more incentives to save water makes sense.

We can’t rely on stinky boys to carry the load.

– Janice Paskey teaches journalism at Mount Royal College, serves on her community association board and is proud mom to two boys.

 
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