While it may seem a bit frivolous to work to conserve water in
a community as water-blessed as Whistler, it is a necessity. It is time to come
to grips with the fact that clean, sustainable water is a responsibility, not a
right. Talk to someone in Sudan. They certainly will not look at water as a
right like many North Americans do.
With our chain of five sparkling lakes, numerous rivers, creeks
and streams, as well as a municipal water system that efficiently delivers some
of the highest-quality drinking water in the world to our taps, it’s easy to
think of water as an infinite commodity to be used — and often abused.
Whistler is using 95 litres per capita per day more than our target. Whistler’s
dedicated dripbusters — citizens, stakeholders and business folks —
are working hard and acting to ensure our water supply continues to be fresh
and abundant into the future through innovation, conservation and
Water has many roles in our resort community; it is a primary
indicator of ecosystem health and supports a wealth of biodiversity in the form
of native species; it supplies humans with the primary source of life for
health, wellness and also recreation. Water is one of the factors which helps
define Whistler as a divine destination.
In B.C. we use about 490 litres per person per day — not
including industrial or agricultural use of water — which we all
indirectly rely on as well. Usually, in the home, toilets will use 30 per cent
and about another 30 per cent is needed for bathing. According to Environment
Canada, just less than three per cent of potable water is used for drinking.
In 2007, Whistler treated and sent out approximately 4.9
billion litres of water, of which 4.76 billion litres was potable. The
remaining amount was used directly from wells (non-potable) for irrigation
purposes on playing fields. Per capita daily water use is 520L/person/day,
substantially higher than B.C.’s average. While the per capita result is also
above Whistler’s recommended target of 425 L, the per capita result is
decreasing on a one year and three year basis.
B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner acknowledged the crucial
role water has to play in the province when he introduced “Living Water Smart
– B.C.’s Water Plan” this summer. The plan is a blueprint for cultural,
environmental, industrial, community and agricultural change that will help
safeguard the province’s water resources into the future. Drawing on a variety
of policy measures, including planning, regulatory change, education, and
incentives like economic instruments and rewards, the plan commits to new
actions and builds on existing efforts to protect and keep B.C.’s water healthy
Locally, the Whistler2020 Water Community task force, formed in
2005, has been working hard to develop on-the-ground actions to initiate and
support water conservation efforts and communicate the importance of water. The
Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group, a Whistler2020 partner, conducted a shoreline
cleanup on Scotia Creek last Saturday. Ten volunteers managed to remove nearly
a tonne of old and new mixed waste from the shoreline of this small, but vital
stream which flows into Alta Lake.
As well, Whistler has two very important bylaws we all must consider
when landscaping, lawn watering and cleaning outside in the summer. Bylaw 1538,
2001, better known as the “Sprinkler Bylaw” is in effect from June 1 to Sept.
30 every year and aims to make summer outdoor water use reasonable and
sustainable. According to RMOW Bylaw Supervisor, Sandra Smith, Bylaw Officers
have been working to educate rather than fine folks regarding water
conservation. With summertime water volumes getting dangerously low, Smith says
people may have to start paying for not following posted water restrictions.
“We have focused mainly on education to date,” says Smith. “If
we continue to see the restrictions not followed we will move quickly next year
into enforcement to support our education initiatives.” The maximum fine for
wasting water is $2,000 per offence. The RMOW Environmental Stewardship
Department will roll out a comprehensive water conservation strategy over the
next year. Whistler’s irrigation companies are also using technology and
innovation to limit automatic sprinkling in rainy periods and protecting
Whistler’s potable water through the installation of backflow valves and
constant systems monitoring.
Bylaw 1618, introduced in 2003, requires “all new and
renovated, residential and commercial buildings within the resort community to
have water-efficient toilets, urinals, faucets and shower heads.” Under the
bylaw, toilets will flush 6 litres (or less) of water, urinals 3.8 litres.
Bathroom and kitchen faucets should have a maximum flow rate of 8.3L/minute
with showerheads using no more than 9.5L/minute.
Whistler has a long way to go to meet our per capita water use
target, but action has started to flow. With a little more energy and
innovation we could turn Whistler’s water conservation actions into a torrent.
Ride the wave.
To learn more about actions which are moving Whistler toward
our 2020 vision go to whistler2020.ca.
• Canada's per capita water consumption is 65 per cent above
the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average,
second only to the United States. Developing countries typically use 10 times
less water than developed countries. -OECD
• An estimated 750,000 British Columbians drink
groundwater. Hundreds of groundwater aquifers provide water for industries,
municipalities and rural homeowners in B.C.
• An average garden hose pours out 20 litres of water per
• A running tap pours out seven to 12 litres a minute.
• A water saving toilet (6 litres per flush) can save you up to
14 litres each time you flush. For the average family that's 25,000 litres per
year, with that water you could fill 25 hot tubs.
• According to a recent poll 70 per cent of Canadians
agree that water will be wasted if a price is not put on it. Yet over 90 per
cent of Canadians believe that access to water is a human right, should be free
and not commercialized. -Ipsos Reid Poll (March 2008)
• B.C. residents use much more water than the Canadian average,
which is currently about 330 litres per person per day.