COLUMN: Waste not, water not

Water restrictions or not, it’s important we learn to conserve

B.C. residents take water for granted, but as we have discovered in this long, hot summer, it is far more important that we realize.

Imposition by Metro Vancouver of stage 3 water restrictions is a reminder of that.

The restrictions, which ban any sprinkling, car washing at home and swimming-pool refills, are the most severe to be imposed in the past 12 years.

And back in 2003, when they were last imposed, they didn’t come until much later in the summer.

That, of course, was the summer that saw massive wildfires in the B.C. interior, notably at Barriere and Kelowna.

While people living in the Lower Mainland tend to think that the interior is always hotter and drier, this year we have experienced conditions that aren’t all that different.

Rainfall that usually comes in May, June and July has been minimal – less than 10 per cent of normal.

A light snowpack has meant less water in rivers and reservoirs.

With no end to dry weather in sight, the restrictions are needed.

With that being acknowledged, the municipalities that deliver Metro Vancouver water could do a better job of setting a good example. Many parks have been drenched with water on a regular basis this summer. I’ve been to several where there is mud in places because of the drenching they receive.

The stage 3 restrictions theoretically prohibit municipalities from watering parks, but they always seem to find a way around those rules. Some limited sprinkling of sports fields and school play areas is still allowed. In some cases, where there is newly planted turf, it is understandable. However, that isn’t the case at most parks and it’s likely many will stay green all summer.

If citizens bother to complain, they are given a litany of excuses. And while homeowners can be fined for disobeying the rules, municipalities seem to be exempt from any punishment.

There is no need to water lawns or parks. Grass is quite able to withstand dry conditions – as we have seen many times in September, when the green grass returns after a few rainy days.

Plants do require water, but hand-watering is sufficient if done frequently enough. Of course, that’s harder to do on large properties. That’s where planting wisely comes in. Drought-resistant plants make the most sense.

As for car washing, commercial car washes are still operating and those desperate to wash their vehicles can go there.

Surrey and Delta have a lot of farms, and people will see fields being watered in the coming days and weeks. This, of course, is to allow crops to grow. Most farms have their own water systems, and most watering is done through water licences. They are not drawing down the Metro reservoirs, although some farms may find wells going dry.

Some common sense about water usage can go a long way.

B.C. is a long way from having California-style drought, but this year is a good reminder that we need to use water wisely.

We take it for granted because so much of it falls in the form of rain each year. Nonetheless, it is a precious resource that is absolutely essential to every form of life.

Using it wisely, as individuals, businesses and governments, should be something that we do automatically, no matter what time of year it is.

Frank Bucholtz – former editor of the Langley Times – writes Fridays for Peace Arch News. frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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