What You Can Do
"At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Earth is facing a serious water crisis. All the signs suggest that it is getting worse and will continue to do so, unless corrective action is taken. In truth, it is attitude and behaviour problems that lie at the heart of the crisis."
Water for People, Water for Life, the UN World Water Development Report
Despite vast water resources, Saskatchewan faces a potential water crisis. Brought on by a variety of factors, including increasing demand, a warmer, drier climate, and inadequate management of wastes and watersheds, both water quality and supply are in jeopardy in the southern half of the province.
To meet this challenge, people will need to change their attitudes and behaviour, as the World Water Development Report suggests. While much of this change has to occur at the government, institutional and corporate levels, individuals and families can have an impact by becoming informed and expressing their concerns.
They can also make a significant contribution by changing their own behaviour. Here are several steps anyone can take to change water use habits.
Decrease your energy use
Declining river flows are connected to climate change, which is caused largely by greenhouse gasses (GHGs) emitted when fossil fuels are burned. The federal government is challenging individual Canadians to "shed a tonne" of GHGs, by reducing emissions-from driving cars, heating homes, using electricity, etc.-by about one fifth. Lower emissions help reduce the impacts of climate change and ultimately help maintain normal river flows.
The steps involved are relatively simple and most actually save money:
- Drive your car less often. Car pool, take public transit, or use active
- transportation (walking or biking).
- When purchasing a new car, aim at a 25 percent improvement in energy
- Turn down your house and water heater thermostats, and improve the weather
- seal and insulation in your house. Turn off lights when not in use and use
- compact florescent light bulbs.
- When buying new appliances, choose EnergyStar-rated models.
Change your water use behaviour indoors
Canadians use more water per person than almost any other people-10 times the amount that Britons use, for instance. Domestic consumption of water can be substantially reduced by:
- Cutting water use in the shower by up to two thirds by replacing your showerhead with a low flow version.
- Cutting water use for the toilet by up to 50 percent by installing water dams into your toilet tank.
- Using energy efficient clothes and dishwashers, which use less water and especially less hot water (which also lowers GHG emissions.) Also, use cold water and cold water detergents for laundry.
- Make sure you eliminate all leaky faucets and try to cut down on unnecessary water use, such as frequent, deep baths.
Change your water-use behaviour in the yard and garden
Consumer water use typically doubles during the summer, substantially increasing municipal demand on river water at a time when extractions for agricultural purposes are high. Here is what you can do:
- Established lawns generally require about 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water per week. Use a rain gauge to keep track of how much it has rained in the preceding week and water only if necessary. If you have to water, use a rain gauge and stop watering once the lawn has received about 2.5 cm.
- Water in the early morning to reduce evaporation and on calm days to prevent wind drift and evaporation.
- Water slowly to avoid run-off and ensure the soil absorbs the water. Regularly check your hose or irrigation equipment for leaks or blockages. Only water lawns and gardens, not driveways and patios.
- Collect rainwater from your roof in a rain barrel and use the water for potted plants and window boxes. Choose an efficient irrigation system. A soaker hose or drip irrigation system are highly efficient. If you use a sprinkler, choose one that sprays close to the ground.
- Set the blade on your lawn mower to cut no lower than 6-8 cm so that the roots are shaded and better able to hold water.
- In the flower and vegetable garden, use lots of organic matter to improve the water-holding capacity of the soil, and lots of mulch around the plants to retain moisture.
- Xeriscaping involves the use of drought tolerant plants in place of traditional grass and ornamental plants that require a lot of water. Meewasin occasionally holds workshops on water conservation measures, such as xeriscaping. Contact us for details or obtain information from the library or Gardenline.
Change your behaviour related to water quality
Whatever you use for detergents, cleaners, pesticides, etc. can make its way into storm sewers or the wastewater treatment system and eventually some of it finds its way back into the river. Reduce pollution by:
- Avoiding the use of cleaners, soaps, detergents, chlorine bleach and other household products whenever possible. Replace them with safer alternatives, which are now widely available in major stores.
- Practice organic gardening methods to eliminate the need for cosmetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
- Have your car maintained to eliminate fluid leaks.
- Many products use large amounts of water in the manufacturing process. Many require resources, like trees, resulting in deforestation that negatively effects watershed management. Often, toxic chemicals and large amounts of energy are required to manufacture products, contributing to pollution and adding more GHGs to the atmosphere. Reducing consumption of consumer products is water-friendly behaviour.