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How Canadians take water for granted

It's important that Canadians don't pollute water
It's important that Canadians don't pollute water

Sana Ahmed, staff writer

September 16, 2011 — A Canadian water expert warns that we are headed down a dangerous path because of overconsumption.

Canadians should be mindful of how much water they use
Canadians should be mindful of how much water they use

Canadians waste a significant amount of water each day. We might think of ourselves as having conservationist attitudes, but studies show otherwise. In fact, most Canadians aren’t aware that our water supply isn’t limitless.

Bob Sandford, of the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the United Nations International Water for Life Decade, finds that alarming. According to Environment Canada, each individual Canadian uses up to 350 litres of water per day, per capita. That may sound surprising, but a five-minute shower with a standard shower head uses 100 litres of water, and a single load of laundry can use up to 225 litres.

Canada is second only to the United States in terms of water consumption.

“The reality is that on average Canadians use ... double what is used on average in European countries,” Sandford says, adding Canadians' waste of water is “scandalous.”

“I have been to communities where residents use treated water to melt the snow in their yards in the spring.”

Conversely, there are places in the world like Singapore and Munich that use as little as 100 litres of water per person each day. That, Sandford argues, has been achieved without diminishing the quality of life. And that is something worth considering for Canadians.

According to Sandford, the majority of Canadians do believe that water is one of the country’s most important resources, but they don’t understand its true value.

“Eight out of 10 Canadians say they try their best to conserve water, but the reality is that they don’t.”

There are a couple of reasons why Canadians waste so much water, Sandford says. One of the biggest is a lack of awareness about the cost of water.

Bob Sandford tries to create more awareness about proper water consumption
Bob Sandford tries to create more awareness about proper water consumption

“Water is virtually free here. So, the message is quite clear: until Canadians fully appreciate the amount of water they consume, along with the corresponding cost of providing the services of supplying water, they are going to continue to take it for granted,” Sandford explains.

Sandford believes that Canadians live under a false myth of limitless abundance of water in Canada and until that myth is dispelled, we will continue to make poor choices with respect to its management.

“Canadians enjoy a sense of entitlement when it comes to water security, something which other nations don’t enjoy.”

That, according to Sandford, will unfortunately result in economic, social, and environmental consequences.

Canada can start to overcome problems related to the overuse of water. According to Sandford, the following are some ways individuals and governments could address overconsumption:

  • Price water differently so people use it differently.
  • Stop using our toilets as garbage cans. “We’re putting things in our toilets that are very hard to treat,” Sandford says.
  • Commit to conserving water.
  • Be aware of where our water comes from, how much we have and how much we use.
  • Set serious, measureable water conservation targets for all public and private use of water.
  • Set higher standards for the protection of water quality. “Much of the water we have is no longer of use as it’s polluted,” Sandford says.
  • Reform our water laws.

“Canadians have to realize that water is going to be increasingly precious in the future and act accordingly,” Sandford says.

“The conservation of water should mimic how we conserve electricity. We turn off lights and machines when they are not being in use. The same should apply to the usage of water.”

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