by Green Calgary
Sustainability is as much about changing attitudes as it is about protecting our world’s future. Water conservation is just one part of a larger stewardship of our environment, and Green Calgary has been endeavouring to help Calgarians do their own part in saving water for the past 20 years. The City of Calgary reports that Calgarians on average use approximately 7000 litres of water per month, and that places us very near the Canadian National average. . All recent reports show a downward trend in our average domestic water usage in Calgary. A huge part of our progress in conserving water is due to the City of Calgary’s significant water saving measures, such as installing water metres throughout the city, more efficient water treatment facilities, and requirements for low-flow toilets in new developments. While Calgary might be doing well compared to Canada’s averages, Canada itself is amongst the highest water-consuming nations in the world. In the home, much of that is in the form of water used for outdoors – your lawn and garden. Studies show that domestic water use increases by 50% in warm weather months as home owners break out the sprinklers and dust off their irrigation timers.
This high rate of water consumption poses some issues to Canadians, and Calgarians, going forward. First of all, Canada has an abundant fresh water supply, which we deliver to Canadians at a fraction of the cost that other nations pay for fresh water, where it is commodified – so our incentive to save water is lessened. But that won’t last forever. When, inevitably, Canadians are forced to recognize what our water supply is worth, and how much it costs to deliver safe, fresh potable water to us in our homes, schools, and businesses, the fees will go up, possibly quite dramatically, and that will lead to many difficulties for Calgarians. Water efficiency now can help in the long run, reducing costs and draw, and preserving our fresh water supply.
Second, Calgary is a big city, and so our rainfalls tend to have an issue with runoff – that is, the rain doesn’t absorb into the ground and runs across pavement and fertilized soil, picking up contaminants. This puts stress on our stormwater systems. The City of Calgary’s YardSmart programs are meant to work against this, encouraging people to plant gardens that absorb the greatest amount of water. Other water efficiency tools in the backyard can help this as well, such as rain barrels.
So, what do you do to help prevent runoff and keep water costs low? There are many great, inexpensive water saving techniques, in addition to simply being mindful of when and how much water you use. Installing low-flow shower heads or toilets if you don’t have them is a great way to lower your overall water draw. Buying one or more rain barrels for watering your lawn and garden is another. The rain barrels that Green Calgary sells fill up in 10 minutes of rainfall and divert 3200 litres of water each year. The average amount of water that a Calgarian uses on their lawn would require 3 full rain barrels for an hour of watering. When you think of it that way, you could be saving thousands of litres of water a year from becoming runoff or going through water treatment, just by investing in a rain barrel.
Need to find a rain barrel? Green Calgary has a rain barrel & composter sale at the Chinook location of Community Natural Foods June 24th. Have other questions about water efficiency? Check the Green Calgary website (www.greencalgary.org) for resources or call our Green Helpdesk Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm at 403.230.1443 x222.