When it comes to our natural resources, I think few of us would argue that none of them is more important than water. There’s a good chance we will eventually be able to replace our reliance on fossil fuels with alternate forms of energy. But most of us recognize that there is no alternative to water. If our consumption exceeds supply, or we contaminate it beyond remediation, that’s it. No one is going to come up with a solution to providing our need for this vital fluid. But this kind of thinking has not always been the case.

For a long time, most of us really didn’t think much about water as a limited resource. It had always been around in seeming plentiful supply and there was no reason to think that it was always going to be that way. Few of us could ever imagine a day when we would turn on the tap and nothing would come out. But as Alberta has grown and our use of water has increased, we have come to realize that this is not true.

I am often critical of how this city operates. But it is the kind of criticism reserved for those we care about. When we see a friend make bad decision after bad decision, I think we feel obligated to say something to them. Our intent is to get them to do the right things, things that are best for them. But no matter how stupid we think some of a friend’s decisions are, it should not prevent us from acknowledging when they in fact do the right thing.

I had occasion to think about that when I read about Calgary’s new water bylaw that will see all homes in Calgary on a metered system by 2014. Right now, many Calgarians are on a flat rate. That means they pay a fixed amount for water, no matter how much they use. Under those circumstances, there’s no inducement to reduce water consumption.

Thank goodness in Edmonton we’re on a metered system. We recognize water use has a cost, environmentally and economically. It makes us hesitant to water the lawn and to accept the advisability of installing low-flow shower heads and such like. Metering has, in a small way, made us all stewards of the environment. I am glad that in this circumstance Edmonton has led rather than followed.

– Terence Harding is a corporate communicator and has been a radio and television talk show host, newspaper columnist, and radio commentator. He is a keen observer of all things Edmonton.

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