VANCOUVER - Drought due to climate change, shale gas "fracking," commercial water sales.
British Columbia's water systems are under increasing pressure, and the provincial government introduced some major changes Friday as Environment Minister Mary Polak unveiled new water use legislation to replace a statute introduced prior to the Cariboo Gold Rush and the First World War.
The new Water Sustainability Act will replace the 1909 Water Act, and it will mean B.C. will no longer be the only province in the country not regulating groundwater use.
"The (Water Sustainability Act) will update and replace the existing water act, which we know is well over 100 years old," Polak said in Victoria.
Over four years of consultations, industry, communities and First Nations said the priority should be to ensure enough water in streams and rivers to sustain fish, Polak said.
"There's no question that this act will not cover off every single aspect of water protection and water use," the minister said in a telephone interview.
"It's not intended to. It's intended to govern the allocation of water — who gets how much, who gets to use what and when and the powers of government to deal with issues of scarcity, drought, etc."
Under the new rules, large-scale users now able to use water without limit and without cost will pay an annual fee and 85 cents for every 1,000 cubic metres of groundwater used.
For example, a Nestle Canada plant in Hope, B.C., that bottles an estimated 71 million imperial gallons — 319.5 million litres — of water for sale annually, would pay about $265, Polak said.
Overall, the new fees for groundwater are expected to put $5 million annually into the provincial coffers. By comparison, the fee regime for surface water that has been in place for many years, generated about $7 million a year.
Polak said the fees and the legislation have not been finalized. The province is seeking public comment until Nov. 15.
The new rules also attempt to prepare for the changing weather patterns and increased risk of drought in B.C. brought on by climate change.
"Being prepared for climate change means being able to adapt to changes in the water supply and demand over time," said the report released Friday by Polak.
By mid-century B.C. is expected to be warmer and wetter, the report said, with higher annual average temperatures and precipitation.
"While B.C. will become wetter overall, precipitation will not occur evenly throughout the year. Fall, winter and spring are projected to be warmer and wetter with more rain and less snow, particularly at lower elevations. Summers will be hotter with reduced precipitation in most areas."
The proposed legislation would also exempt saline aquifers buried more than 600 metres below the surface. Polak said the decision not to charge fees is an incentive to avoid fresh water for use in shale gas "fracking."
"When you consider the potential impacts of creating an incentive for the industry to avoid fresh water use in favour of saline use, that can have a significant impact on what we're currently seeing in behaviour of oil and gas companies in the northeast," she said in a telephone interview.
Polak said the new act is not the only statute governing water use in B.C. The Water Protection Act, the Fish Protection Act and the Drinking Water Protection Act remain in place.
The conservation group West Coast Environmental Law said it was pleased that the province is committed to new legislation.
But in some ways the proposed rules enshrine mistakes past in water management, said Andrew Gage, a staff lawyer for the association.
"They need to hear loud and clearly from British Columbians that this is our environment and our water and it needs to be protected fully," Gage said.
Spencer Chandra-Hebert, the environment critic for the provincial New Democrats, said anything would be an improvement but the legislation proposed is "fairly weak."
"Climate change is going to impact us and is impacting us in ways that we don't understand," he said. "It acknowledges it but it does very little to change.... It leaves a lot of discretion and a lot of potential for inaction."
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Earlier on HuffPost:
Wearing Your Jeans
<strong>The issue:</strong> Who would have thought that being a fashionista could take such a toll on the environment? Unfortunately, according to the <em>Indian Textile Journal</em>, <a href="http://www.indiantextilejournal.com/articles/FAdetails.asp?id=2420 " target="_hplink">the textile industry is one of the biggest creators of wastewater</a> worldwide. The EPA claims that it takes 2,900 gallons of water to <a href="ehttp://blog.epa.gov/blog/2010/06/14/my-jeans-are-very-thirsty/" target="_hplink">produce one pair of jeans</a>. Most of the water is used in the "<a href="http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/publications/assistance/sectors/notebooks/textilsn.pdf" target="_hplink">wet processing</a>" and dyeing of materials. <strong>The fix: </strong>The industry itself is making strides in cutting down their waste. <a href="http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/21/cutting-water-use-in-the-textile-industry/ " target="_hplink">According to the <em>New York Times</em></a>, companies are using innovative measures to combat wastewater, such as <a href="http://www.airdye.com/" target="_hplink">AirDye</a> technology and counter-current rinsing. Still, there is a long way to go. One way that you can cut down on textile waste is to reuse and recycle. Need a pair of jeans? Check out Goodwill, or a nearby consignment shop. Want a bright red shirt? Buy a <a href="http://www.cottonique.com/pages/dye-free-resin-free " target="_hplink">dye-free light material,</a> and color the shirt yourself.
Taking A Dip In Your Pool
<strong>The issue:</strong> For those who live through tortuous summer heat, nothing can beat a refreshing, chlorinated backyard pool. But sadly, this high-temp weather respite can be a source of major water loss. Besides the amount of water initially needed to fill a pool, cement cracks and evaporation can lead to almost double the original amount of water being used. According to the National Leak Foundation of Mesa, <a href="http://www.mesaaz.gov/conservation/pdf/pool_info_2010.pdf ," target="_hplink">30% of pools have leaks in them</a>, many of which go unnoticed due to an automatic refilling mechanism. In addition, evaporation is a major problem in arid environments (like the Southwest). During the hottest summer days in the driest climates, a 400 square foot surface area pool can lose over 2,500 gallons of water in one month! <strong>The fix:</strong> The best plan is to forgo the private pool in favor of a public one at a park or private club. If you do want to keep your backyard pool, make sure to check carefully for leaks in your liner and cracks underwater. In addition, always put a cover on when it's not being used, even (especially!) in the summer.
Living In "Sin City"
<strong>The issue:</strong> Although Las Vegas may be known as a hub of vice, water waste is a lesser known evil. In fact, just living in the Nevada city means you are using way more water than the average consumer. This isn't personal: due to the hot and arid climate, evaporation is a major concern in Southwestern cities. Vegas in particular is home to a number of golf courses and luxury resorts, where a large quantity of water is needed to keep the grounds green and tidy. According to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, <a href="http://www.snwa.com/consv/restrictions_landscape.html" target="_hplink">water laws in Nevada</a> include a restriction in lawn size, and assigned-day watering. <strong>The fix: </strong>Embrace the desert flora. Instead of working tirelessly for thirsty-looking front yard grass, Nevadans can landscape around their homes with cacti and other desert shrubbery. If giving up green is not the way you want to go, astro-turf or other grass substitutes are easy, affordable, and low maintenance options. According to the EPA, <a href="http://www.epa.gov/greenhomes/ConserveWater.htm#landscaping" target="_hplink">replacing grass with artificial turf</a> will save you 2/3 of regular lawn water use. In addition, indoor potted plants and herbs can add to kitchen ambiance. <em>Flickr image courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/6022907226/" target="_hplink">stevendepolo</a></em>
Chomping Down On A Cheeseburger
<strong>The issue: </strong>Meat production is a controversial industry, and not only because of its animal treatment record. According to a <a href="http://www.waterfootprint.org/Reports/Report-48-WaterFootprint-AnimalProducts-Vol1.pdf" target="_hplink">UNESCO Institute for Water Education Study</a> conducted between 1996-2005, "29% of the total water footprint of the agricultural sector in the world is related to the production of animal products." One third of that is related to cattle production, according to the study. "The water footprint of any animal product is larger than the water footprint of a wisely chosen crop product with equivalent nutritional value," the study states. <strong>The fix: </strong>Consider cutting down on your meat consumption (check out our <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/meatless-monday" target="_hplink">"Meatless Monday" page</a>!). According to the aforementioned UNESCO study, "managing the demand for animal products by promoting a dietary shift away from a meat-rich diet will be an inevitable component in the environmental policy of government."
Going Too Green On Gas
<strong>The issue:</strong> In an effort to go as enviro-friendly as possible, you have made the switch in your refueling routine to <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E85" target="_hplink">a corn ethanol blend called E85</a> instead of pure gasoline in your car. Sure, it has some drawbacks (as you can <a href=" a href="http://www.motherearthnews.com/Green-Transportation/Ethanol-Pros-And-Cons.aspx" target="_hplink"" target="_hplink">see here</a>) but it's better in many ways than regular gas... <em>right</em>? Unfortunately, corn ethanol's high water consumption makes it a controversial energy alternative. According to the National Academies Press,<a href="http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12039&page=46 " target="_hplink"> one gallon of corn ethanol</a> requires four to seven gallons of water for production, while petroleum refinement requires about only 1.5 gallons of water for one gallon of gasoline. E85 also provides "about 30 percent less fuel economy" than ordinary gasoline, according to Mother Earth News. <strong>The fix:</strong> If you can afford it, invest in a hybrid. According to <a href="http://doc.utwente.nl/77191/1/Report44-BurningWater.pdf" target="_hplink">this UNESCO study</a>, bio-electricity is the most water-efficient form of transport. But is the <a href="http://www.chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car/" target="_hplink">Chevy Volt</a> not exactly in your price range? Many people still think that the pros of biofuels outweigh the cons, especially if you use your car in moderation. Try to limit your driving time by walking, carpooling, or taking public transportation.
Not Letting Your Yellow 'Mellow'
<strong>The issue:</strong> Opening up the toilet lid and seeing a tank full of unflushed pee isn't pleasant. <em>Not</em> flushing, however, is a minor offense in contrast to actually doing it. According to Networx, <a href="http://www.networx.com/article/if-its-yellow-let-it-mellow-the-great " target="_hplink">it takes 1.6 gallons of water to flush a mere 10 ounces of urine</a>, rendering perfectly good water undrinkable. Since the average person pees six times per day, you are using about 2,774 gallons of water every year. <strong>The fix:</strong> Unless you poop, don't flush as frequently. <em>Flickr image courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gtzecosan/3110646027/" target="_hplink">Sustainable sanitation</a></em>
Buying From Your Barista
<strong>The issue: </strong>In 2008, a scandal erupted around Starbucks' water use. After a customer spotted a running faucet, she asked the barista why it was left on. "That's just what we are supposed to do," she replied. Starbucks' "dipping wells," as these streams of water were called, wasted <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/International/SmartHome/story?id=5964908&page=1#.T2pAI3JSTDU " target="_hplink">6 million gallons of water per day</a>. While they have since drastically <a href="http://www.chainstoreage.com/article/starbucks-green-energy-cuts-water-use-pilots-new-ems " target="_hplink">decreased their water use by 21.6%</a>, it still means the company uses about 4,704,000 gallons of water per day. <strong>The fix:</strong> The Sierra Club says that <a href="http://www.sierraclubgreenhome.com/videos/green-your-caffeine/" target="_hplink">coffee production has a much lower water-footprint than tea</a>, so no need to forgo your joe altogether. Instead, the Daily Green suggests <a href="http://www.thedailygreen.com/going-green/community-tips/brew-coffee-460429" target="_hplink">brewing your own java</a>, and of that only the amount you think you'll drink. In addition, <a href="http://www.tapitwater.com/blog/2011/03/how-the-coffee-crazed-conserve.html" target="_hplink">buying local coffee</a> saves on water lost during transport, according to TapIt.com. Extra points for using a filterless (and non-electric) French press, reusable travel mug, and coffee in recyclable containers or jars! <em>Flickr image courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bfishadow/5943677936/" target="_hplink">bfishadow</a></em>
Eating Grocery Store Fruits And Vegetables
<strong>The issue:</strong> When shopping for fruits and veggies at the grocery store versus the local farmers market, many people can only see two differences: the price and the convenience of a grocery store. However, farming uses up a significant amount of available fresh water. According to Wired Magazine, <a href="http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/2006/03/70445 " target="_hplink">farmers are responsible for 70% of the world's water consumption</a>, and most of it is not going to good use. Wasteful irrigation systems, overly-dry land that needs an abundance of water, and a lack of efficiency are at the root (pun intended) of the problem. <strong>The fix:</strong> Go local or go home. Some smaller farms are trying new, water sustainable methods to grow their crops. Look up your <a href="http://www.localharvest.org/" target="_hplink">local farms here</a>, and contact them to see if they utilize <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/business/energy-environment/29iht-rbogwater.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">these water sustainable technologies for farmers</a> mentioned in the <em>New York Times</em>. And, of course, home-grown produce is not only water-friendly, but can be cheaper and much, much tastier!
Being Too Clean In The Kitchen
<strong>The issue:</strong> Contrary to the conservationist's assumption, a dishwasher can actually be more <a href="http://www.treehugger.com/kitchen-design/built-in-dishwashers-vs-hand-washing-which-is-greener.html" target="_hplink">water and energy efficient than washing dishes by hand</a>, says Treehugger.com. However, this is only true when the dishwasher is run once it is full. Many people, especially those who live alone or with one another person, do not think twice about running a half full, or even a quarter full, dishwasher; it is simply one of those daily chores everyone does. But for a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CGUQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.energystar.gov%2Fia%2Fbusiness%2Fbulk_purchasing%2Fbpsavings_calc%2FCalculatorConsumerDishwasher.xls&ei=2EVrT5aMIuSs0AHw9d34Bg&usg=AFQjCNGkhXzN-s4LntGp_ju2mcslEePM0A " target="_hplink">non-Energy Saver dishwasher,</a> which according to the Energy Saver website uses about 6-7 gallons per load, those gallons add up when you are only washing for one. <strong>The fix:</strong> Only run the dishwasher once you have enough dishes to fill it. If leaving dirty dishes unwashed makes you feel icky, use a damp cloth to wipe off plates before leaving them in the washer.
Being A Top Loader
<strong>The issue:</strong> Who knew that the structure of your washing machine says so much about your water footprint? According to Networx, <a href="http://www.networx.com/article/choosing-a-washing-machine-top-loading" target="_hplink">front-loading washing machines</a> are often more energy and water efficient than top loading machines. Although the front loading machines still use 20 gallons of water per cycle, <em>National Geographic</em> claims that <a href="http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/water-conservation-tips/ " target="_hplink">top-loaders use twice that amount</a>! <strong>The fix:</strong> Get yourself a front loading washer.
Water is one of the fundamental requirements of life but as the population increases, it is becoming harder to use. This special from Green TV looks at how the sourcing of water is becoming a political problem and how the fight for life is becoming literal.