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I am very happy to see that the province, industry and the residents are starting taking the water issue seriously. Finally. Prior to our arrival in Canada we lived in Africa and had a first hand account how precious the water is. Water was life. Where there was water, there was life, and where there was not it was a hot, dusty, harsh and barren land.
It was stunning for us to see how people wasted water in Calgary when we have arrived in early 80s. Long showers, running water in taps needlessly, watering their lawns, side walks , streets, etc. It does appear however that peoples' attitudes are slowly changing. Having access to clean, cold water, the kind that you can drink and have a shower straight from the tap is not a right it is a privilege.
Further I am also happy to acknowledge that cutting down on the water usage does not need to be a difficult or expensive endeavor. Installing water efficient faucets, not wasting water, slowly replacing old toilets with low flush, and old appliances with water efficient machines significantly reduced our water usage with NO appreciable impact on us.
I commend CBC for putting the issue in front of us, and I am cautiously optimistic that people will slowly jump on the water conservation bandwagon.
It would be of significant benefit to understanding the water issues if those who are most vocal about it would get some education on the subject.
Firstly, water is not a non-renewable resource. It is in fact infinitely renewable. A water molecule you drank this morning has probably been evaporated and condensed thousands of times over millions of years and passed through several sets of kidneys. Disassociating a water molecule is actually very energy intensive and only temporary as hydrogen and oxygen have a natural affinity for each other.
Secondly water cannot be legally "sold" in Alberta. You can charge to convey it, bottle it, access it but you cannot sell it. We would do well to regard the use of water as a rental not a purchase. This may also contribute to the attitude change required by the consumer. If you buy a car you can abuse it at will, if you abuse a rented car you pay for the damages. Water consumers should be charged for the rental of the water proportionate to degree of cost incurred to clean it up for re-use.
Thirdly, although agriculture consumes the largest single portion of water in Alberta none of it is used in an application which removes it from the hydrological cycle. Even cattle urine and feces will dehydrate allowing the evaporated water to form clouds and eventually fall back to earth as precipitation.
Disposal of oilfield waste water in injection wells however takes the water out of the hydrological cycle for millennia as does the process of reservoir pressure compensation(flooding) with water.
These points I believe are critical to any intelligent decision making process.
It has been very interesting, eye-opening and thought-provoking to listen to CBC's Blueprint Alberta series AND to read the comments from some of your listeners whose comments reflect the general population's imminent concern for the protection/conservation of a sustainable watershed in Alberta and the world.
I especially appreciated the remarks of Mario Siciliano of Volunteer Calgary who said that being passionate and emotional about a cause is not good enough... we must get involved; we must take action; we must not wait for someone else to do the work for us.
It is time that the people of Alberta, Canada and the world, who care about the future more than the bottom line, start putting pressure on the people who do make the important decisions regarding our natural resources.
Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, writing politicians, newspapers, big and small businesses, putting our actions and money where our mouths are now, would be a good start.
I've appreciated the depth and scope of Blueprint AB H2O feature. In the past I think Calgarians have been quite red-necked - a water superiority complex - superior taste, never-ending supply and unquestionable quality! Fortunately we are teachable and are becoming Guardians of our H2O treasure.
I think the future of Alberta's water will be in doubt unless and until the government begins to consider it as important to our economy as it does oil.
The city's current metering policy of requiring water to be metered solely in newly built homes and on new accounts may be the less controversial means of implementing metering, but it is certainly the slower.
While in our city it is illegal to wash one's car in the driveway, nothing is done to enforce this. Oil companies are allowed to waste water rather than find more efficient methods of obtaining their product. Farmers are not restricted in their use of herbicides and pesticides.
We need to get serious.
What do you do when knowledge and emotion are not enough?
Many of us are becoming more knowledgeable about the issues affecting our society and, in some cases, we can become quite passionate about them. No surprise really, since some of the issues we face have serious consequences not only for ourselves, but for future generations. But what happens after we understand the issues and see that we are passionate about them? Is that enough?
The challenge is that knowledge and emotion are not enough. We need to actually get engaged and do something about the issues we care about, such as our future water quality and supply, among potentially many other things. Do we have to get involved in everything? Do we have to be as active as David Suzuki or as high profile? The answer to those questions is no. All we need to do is do a little, with what time and experience and skill we have, for a cause we personally feel passionate about.
How does one get started? Volunteer Calgary is here to help you find a way to express your passion and talents. There are at least 4,000 non-profit organizations in Calgary working diligently on missions as diverse as environment, animals, youth, arts, sport, faith, education, health, social issues, recreation, and pretty much any other passion that you could have.
Interested in the water issue? There are at least a dozen groups that would love to hear from you. Get started by visiting Volunteer Calgary's website at www.volunteercalgary.ab.ca and explore the many opportunities to get involved.
Our communities will only get better if we all get engaged. Consider it an open invitation to change the world in your unique, small, but vitally important way!
President & CEO
Water - it should be conserved and protected as our national parks are preserved and protected.
It is enterprising to run irrigation-based farming, but its water requirements are very high. So, if water becomes tight, that farming should occur in a more suitable environment. Canada is not a country for which extensive irrigation is essential to its domestic food supply.
A way to address the issue is to have commercial users pay a price for water that reflects the total societal costs associated with that use. This would induce more efficient use by agriculture and the oil and gas industries.
I agree with former premier Peter Lougheed that water is more important than oil. With agriculture using 70% of the surface water, we need to develop a policy that will decrease this usage over a reasonable period of time.
Alberta is my home province - born and raised. I recently moved to Vancouver Island but still like to keep up with the news and issues of "home". I have been most interested in the articles pertaining to water issues and the shortages fears that are spreading like wildfires. I will grant the scientists and the environmentalists their theories on global warming, climate changes, etc. as being contributory factors in this issue, but let's explore some blatantly obvious issues that municipalities and the province would rather not address.
The province is in a building boom....has been for some time now. Fly into Calgary and see how far the "human blight" has spread towards Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks and Strathmore....HOUSES everywhere to say nothing of inner-city development in the form of offices, apartments, condos, etc. And I'm sure the other cites and towns in the province are experiencing similar growth and construction. All of these buildings require WATER. Most homes boast multiple bathrooms, in fact, what self-respecting contractor would build a home with only one bathroom?
Calgary has grown to a city of 1 million people - at least tripled in size from the days I was growing up there and buying my first home (only one bathroom) and the water sources used then are the same sources being stretched beyond capacity now? Well, NO KIDDING!!! I'm not a city engineer or urban planner but I'm guessing the city fathers were blinded by the building permits revenue and the extra property tax dollars to give too much worry to where the water was going to come from to service how many new residences and buildings with a whole lot more sinks and toilets in them than ever before!
Unless I'm mistaken, the Bow and Elbow Rivers have not changed their courses....the changes are the rapid growth expansion along their paths and the gluttonous use patterns of the constituents. What a shame....it was a nice place to grow up....but I wouldn't want to live there.
It's a well-known fact that water shortages will soon become a reality. So why are water licences still being granted to enable developers to build man-made lakes in new housing developments? I'm not talking about storm-water retention ponds, but lakes that will be used for recreation and will be stocked with fish. In the Calgary Herald's 'New Homes' section on October 7 there was an article about lakeside communities and it's noted that a developer (Bordeaux) has a water licence now in place for a new development in the Harmony area. Why is the province still granting licences for man-made lakes? This is absolutely amoral and ridiculous!
I'm glad that people are starting to be aware of just how much Bow river water is being used by a relatively small group of people, the irrigating agricultural community. As the needs for water increase, and the amount decreases there will be increasing pressure on those groups to justify their use of the water.
It would be nice to see some water conservation vision brought forward by the agricultural sector, and/or the government. Unfortunately, business is greedy by nature, and governments are unwilling to take the high ground if it means alienating their supporters, so I don't think it's likely that irrigation water licenses will be decrease, bought out, or revoked any time soon. Of course the agricultural sector will play their cards about being good stewards of the land, and having a strong tradition behind them, but I think you just have to look east to the Cod fishery, and you can see how it could easily end up with us all fighting for the last bucket of Bow River water.
I wonder what they're thinking about downstream in Saskatchewan?
I need some help in getting a handle on the connection between the problem of reducing water supplies, increasing demands and the majority of "solutions" I am hearing on your programming. I listen to CBC Calgary.
If we look at the water as a system then I don't see how using less water to shower, flush the toilet, wash my hands etc. is of benefit. The water comes from the river and returns to the river, where is the net loss of water? I can see cost savings to water treatment but not actual water savings to the system.
I would appreciate it if you could help me see this as I seem to be missing something here?
We in Alberta as well as Canada as a whole waste so much water it's silly. I live in a city that has been booming for around 5-6 years now. One and two bedroom condos are being built in my city quite legally. In these small units the builder is installing regular toilets that use 13 litres per flush putting in regular sized dishwashers (for ONE person) the same size that a family of five or six people would use. They are also allowed to put washer/dryers in these units that once again a family could use. The washing machines are of the style of North America and NOT the water saving front loader type. The same ones that once again are used by families of five or six people in Europe.
It is a total waste of water and they have been and continue to build these places and they are such a waste of water. The government of Canada or even better the government of Alberta could impose taxes or surcharges on less efficient models to encourage the builders, home owners and landlords to change their water using appliances. The other route is running out of water! There are Many things that Canadians can learn from Europe. There are already there, do we want to wait and waste until we have no choice?
90% of the water is diverted from rivers here in the south. At least 70% (I also heard the figure 90%) of that water is used for irrigation. I would like to know what crops are the heaviest user of water and what percent of those crops are exported out of the country.
When the St. Mary and Oldman reservoirs run low, are acreage numbers of these high-water-use crops going to be reduced? I suspect the potato, sugar beet, and perhaps the timothy hay export industries use the most water.
How much water is used in livestock production and how many of those animals are shipped south for slaughter in American meat-processing plants? Are we exporting too much of our water in the form of livestock?
I would like to elaborate on Glenn Davies comments. Watershed protection and proper management is so very improtant to maintaining our water supply. Calgary's watershed is under pressure if not outright attack. The Elbow watershed (supply for south Calgary) is actively being logged by Spray Lakes Sawmills and is being crisscrossed by oil and gas roads by Shell, Petrocanada and Husky.
Right now, Spray Lakes Sawmills has a plan before the provincial government to extensively log in this watershed from 2006-2011.
The city of Calgary estimates that the cost of the facilities needed to clean the extra sediment created by these activities will be more than the revenue generated by the mill.
How does the government of Alberta justify allowing these activities in this endangered watershed?
I read with interest, Dr. Griffith's description of the use of deep ground water to extract oil from bitumin in the Tar Sands. Mines in Flin Flon experience Glacial run off from the Rockies at very deep levels. Where does the contaminated ground water end up? Is there a possibility of it polluting lakes and rivers thousands of kilometers away? And if such pollution happens, what are the legal ramifications?
This morning, I heard an ad for the bottled water story to be aired tomorrow. In it the reporter asked, "Are you paying for what you could get for free?"
I was surprised to hear this as I think what will become overwhelmingly clear is that water is, in fact, not free. Nor should it be. I was suprised that such a statement made it in the ad given the nature of the discussion.
I wish we paid more for water than we do for oil. Perhaps then people would not take water for granted.
I just wanted to comment on the proposed Red Deer River water diversion project in the Special Areas. As a resident in the Special Areas and a land owner that would directly benefit from the project, I just wanted to let your listeners know a couple of things.
Firstly, we are environmentalists. Our lively hood and everyday life relies on conserving water and preserving the land through pasture management strategies. Just because water is diverted doesn't mean that we will use it senselessly, or just for the sake of using water.
Secondly, your guest on Oct 11th commented on the amount of water to be used for irrigation. This land will never be able to handle an irrigation system similar to what exists in Brooks. Of the approximate 1400 acres of land that we own, only 175 would be able to sustain some sort of irrigation. We need to think of the long term benefits of such a project.
Oil and gas is not the only industry in Alberta and we shouldn't forget about agriculture. We need to remember that land with water brings people and people bring prosperity. If we can make the land of the Special Areas more productive, more people may choose to move here, which will help to stimulate the economy. I hope this project does go through. It will give us some options for our future and help to sustain the future of agriculture in this community.
When I drive to work at five in the morning I see water spewing out onto the streets as businesses water the lawn patches on their property. At home I literally watered three times this year. An hour at most. I'm doing because I don't want the lawn to die.
I don't care if it's brown or green and brown. My taxes don't go down if my lawn looks good does it? It's not funny how we, the care takers of our city, are bent on keep the fronts of our homes as sponges of water. Ever notice when we build new neigbourhoods we always make sure the front yard is a big lawn?
I like the idea of using the front lawn as a veggie garden. I then can use the rain I catch and water the veggies that I eat. I haven't gotten the hang of eating my lawn yet.
Really... what the heck were we thinking? A lawn is the bane of water conservation period!
Water is a precious resource that most of us squander. Without water, we (humans) will not be able to exist. It is long past time that we stopped taking water for granted and took water conservation and environmental protection seriously, yet buying water is the 'thing to do' - it is just simply another commodity on the grocery store shelves.
I am listening with interest to your series of programs on water in Alberta. I would like to let you know about one key source of information that you have not yet tapped: The Bow River Basin Waterscape, produced with the input of many key organizations in the Bow River Basin and published by the Geological Survey of Canada.
The poster, together with educational materials published by the City of Calgary, is a key source of information on the Bow River Basin. It is used extensively in Elementary and Junior High schools. View elements of the poster and the educational materials associated with it are on line under Youth Education.
This is partly shameless self-promotion, but we (the authors) think it has great value to those living in the Bow River Basin because of its graphical portrayal of the various aspects of the bow River Basin including its geography, watercycle, groundwater, climate change, and water use, both urban and rural.
I sincerely congradulate the CBC for dedicating a special on this important issue. I've found this multi-media / informative approach very interesting.
I work for a small Alberta company that has worked very hard to develop a sophisticated system for recycling hard to treat industrial wastewater. We have found a niche market in Texas, were the water crisis is much worse than our own. I believe a water crisis like the one is Texas is slowly developing in Alberta. Growing indstrial and commercial consumption coupled with climate change have resulted in severe drought. Albertian's need to be proactive in their approach towards H2O.
Education such as this program is critical. I would encourage you to explore what options innovative companies like Aqua-Pure are exploring to help prevent an Albertain water crisis.
2/3's of the Athabasca river, which flows out of the Columbia Icefield, is allocated to oil companies so they can use it to inject it into the oilsands to free up bitumen from the ground. This is shocking that one industry is allocated so much water. What will the citizens of Alberta be expected to drink. Oil? I don't think it tastes very good. Let's impose regulations on oil companies in Alberta before they gobble up all of our precious resources in order to slake America's thirst for cheap oil.
Dead Man's Flats
I am so happy you are doing such an indepth look on water, and I applaud you for putting all this info on your website. I will eagerly watch for all the reports to come. Water is indeed the most pressing issue to face us in the next decade.
Thanks again for this series!!
Another kazillion dollar MEGA-PROJECT "okayed" for the Fort McMurray area... another kazillion barrels of oil to be recovered... then sent south... WAY south; another kazillion dollars of profits for the owners/share-holders, ie. Americans.
Another kazillion litres of fresh water consumed... another kazillion reasons for all us to say, "Whow! Enough is enough!"
Greed REALLY is a terrible thing.
We can't be too critical of big business and bigger industry/development unless we personally make an effort to conserve and protect water.
For years, we, as a family, have tried to be responsible by:
And most importantly, perhaps, THINKING about water, its wonderment, its beauty, its importance, its sources, its functions, its capabilities, its limitations... its misuse, abuse, waste and possible demise.
- Sharing bath water; this can be more fun if shared at the same time!
- Filling kettles, cooking pots, etc. with the cooler water if ever letting the water run to get hotter; then using that water on plants, for cooking, etc.;
- Using a rain-barrel to collect run-off water;
- Not flushing if it's just urine in the bowl;
- Not EVER watering the lawn, no matter how dry; grass was designed to survive dry periods; we DO NOT need Irish green lawns;
- Canoeing/cross skiing instead of using any kind of motorized propulsion;
- Only washing the truck IF absolutely necessary, ie. your kid's wedding day!
- Wearing clothes, towells, etc., one or two days longer before washing;
- Only washing a FULL load of clothes;
- Washing dishes by hand;
- Not letting water run while brushing teeth;
- Remembering that there is ALWAYS somebody else DOWNSTREAM!
If EVERYONE was part of water's sustainability, we wouldn't have a problem.
If Alberta has such a water crisis, then why are we allowing the oil industry to pump millions of gallons of drinking water and wetland water into the ground to replace the oil that is brought to the surface?
I've seen streams and rivers disappear due to vac trucks sucking up precious wetlands, streams and lakes to take to the oil lease sites, just to pump into the ground.
This water will never be recovered. It is being taken from the water cycle. The oil companies do what they want... and don't believe environment when they say that they are monitoring and permitting the industry. A blind eye is turned so the Province can get richer� and for what?
Maybe someone needs to do an in-depth, under cover story to tell the truth, rather than assume and speculate why we are losing our precious resource H2O...
I do not consider that I waste any water. I may waste some treatment chemicals at the input and output treatment plants and some electricity for pumping. The water that goes through my house does not disappear, 95 per cent of it ends up back in the Bow River.
The balance of water is lost to drinking, steam and watering my trees. Watering plants, garden and filling the fountain comes from my rain barrels. The only people using up the water are those that spread it on or in the land so that it does not make it back to the source river.
Therefore, the City of Calgary and the media should not be after residents about wasting water because they only borrow it for almost immediate return.
I am a graduate student at the University of Calgary in the Faculty of Environmental Design looking at methods to integrate water management with long range land use planning.
In my opinion, a significant water challenge facing Alberta isprotecting the landscape systems that naturally maintain our water supplies and the quality of our water. This includes groundwater recharge zones, drainage channels, wetlands, riparian areas that regulate infiltration, sediment movement and biological filtering and nutrient storage.
Development of all types, especially development that significantly alters the landscape, disrupts these essential landscape processes. Land use planning approaches need to consider the long-term effects that land use change can have on our water resources.
I believe that securing future water supplies depends on managing land use so that the landscape systems that naturally maintain the quality and quantity of our water are protected.
How do we balance our demands for growth/development with our future demands for clean water supplies?
I would be curious to hear what others have to say on this topic.
Canada is blessed with natural resources but the impact of water, as a key resource,does not seem to register to the average Albertan.Water is vital to industry, the economy, but more importantly, to life itself. Unlike other natural resources there is NO ALTERNATIVE to water and its function of life.When it is gone�it's gone.No technology or process change will bring back the water tables, the glaciers that fed them and the rivers.That is why Canadians and Albertans must think long and hard before agreeing to further water intensive agricultural and industrial processes or agreeing to sell water to the U.S.
We need to think about the way water is taken for granted.Are we using water correctly for our agriculture? Are we farming on lands that are just not suitable?The intense irrigation systems supported by intense fertilizing would suggest the practice needs to be rethought.You are depleting a key resource and at the same time, water shed run off is contaminating water supplies with excess nitrogen, phosphorous et al. As a consequent it can impact a bio-diversity of that area or somewhere else down stream.
Do our lawns really need to be golf course perfect? Are home owners aware of how much run off happens with their irrigation systems (Why water a road?). Beautiful gardens can be achieved by Xeriscaping, which take a lot less water.
The oil sands extraction process is not sustainable under current processes. It takes more water out of the system than nature is supplying. That will impact all downstream activity including potable water. Water tables are falling at a rate quicker than the natural supply can replenish. The draining of aquifers for industry may prove to be a bad decision in a few years time.
Depletion of a finite resource such as water can lead to a situation where perhaps a barrel of water exceeds the price of oil.That may be far fetched but it is plausible.
Alberta is a fortunate place but sustainability must be a key policy for the economy, environment, industry, agriculture and the social welfare of all Albertans. Water needs to be used wisely and with thought for the future. Water, as the key resource to life, must be used wisely, efficiently and above all never sold to the U.S.The U.S. says it makes no sense for Canada not to exploit one more of its natural resources but that is a clear indication the U.S. still don't understand the meaning of finite natural resources.There is no alternative to water to sustain life and with glaciers retractingand changing weather patterns make rain prediction impossible, Canada and Albert must treat this as more important than oil or gas.That will only come about by societal education and understanding.
It's a sad state of affairs when the world is warring over who gets this oil and who gets that oil, people dying left and right all in the name of 'black gold'.And right here in Alberta, the oil sands wreak such havoc on our environment that our water will soon become the most sought after commodity known to man. How many years before that happens? Five? Ten? Fifty?
Sad, very sad.
The three-minute shower has been standard in our household for 30 years. This applied to our three sons, as well as SAIT students who enjoyed room and board with us.
Three-minute showers proved a challenge initially, but the students suffered the consequences of running the shower longer ... after three minutes, the landlady (my wife) turned off the bathroom light that was conveniently placed outside the bathroom along with the fan switch.
The students as well as houseguests were surprised and a bit taken aback by the fact that 3 minutes is all one really needs for a shower.
And one doesn't need to take a shower daily. Most of us aren't involved in hot, sweaty occupations.
Consider this: A standard household bucket holds about two gallons of water (that's not much in metric). A shower without a flow regulator delivers four to five gallons of water a minute. Thus a three-minute shower uses 12 to 15 gallons of water or six to 7.5 buckets of water.
With a flow regulator, the shower delivers 2.5 gallons of water a minute, or 7.5 gallons for a three-minute shower. This is 3.75 buckets of water.
Set out those number of buckets and ask yourself if you need that much water to clean yourself once or twice a day. If you have just come off an oilrig or from taking off the crop, perhaps; but if you've just risen from a hard day sitting at your computer, this is excessive.
People today insist on luxuriating in a 20-minute shower. Without a flow regulator that's 80 to 100 gallons of water or 40 to 50 buckets of water. Who is that dirty?
Many of us remember taking a bath Saturday nights. That was it for the week. We stripped washed the other six days and we participated in activities, dated, went to school and life was good.
To wrap this up, on a recent trip to Malta, we noticed that the taxi drivers washed their cars with one, perhaps two buckets of water. That's two to four gallons (again in metric that's not much). We now wash our car this way, trying to avoid the wastefulness of car washes.
Alberta’s Water for Life
strategy calls for reducing water consumption in 2015 by 30 per cent of