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Faucet frugality: Experts say B.C. residents need to conserve water now

The province is facing severe drought conditions much earlier than usual
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Drought conditions in B.C. are disproportionately worse compared to seasonal averages, and officials and experts are urging British Columbians to be sparing with their water usage. (Adobe stock)

It can be said that British Columbia is Canada’s two-season province, with West Coast living consisting of a cycle between rain and fire.

Fire season has arrived and experts say it’s time to put your rainy day habits behind you.

“All we can really do is adapt to more extreme drought,” said John Richardson, a professor in the department of forest and conservation sciences at the University of British Columbia.

“We have to remember that same water is used for drinking, bathing, flushing, for fighting fire,” he said.

With El Niño superimposing on top of the climate effects occurring, Richardson said now is the time for people to tap the brakes on water usage.

Using showering as an example, he said that by cutting shower time down from four minutes to two minutes an individual would save up to 20 litres of water per shower, per person.

“When you multiply that though by a couple of million people in say, Vancouver, we get to the point where that would be savings of almost 10 Olympic swimming pools of water per day over the course of the summer,” Richardson said.

Though it may seem trivial, avoiding doing half-loads of laundry or dishes can also contribute greatly to water-conserving efforts. Other things like ensuring any leaky or broken pipes get fixed can also have a far-reaching impact on overall water usage reduction.

“I think climate change has crept up on us a little faster than we expected,” Richardson said.

Though Richardson said there aren’t necessarily irreparable consequences to severe drought, it can take time for ecosystems impacted to bounce back completely.

Expanding in reservoirs is not always the most environmentally friendly option, either according to Richardson, due to the amount of methane that gets released

“On the bottom of these reservoirs, once they’re flooded, there’s a huge amount of organic material and it’s using up oxygen. Rather than coming out as carbon dioxide, it comes out as methane, which is 40 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide,” he said.

When it boils down to who the onus can fall upon to implement drought-friendly habits, Richardson said it’s a mix of policy and people.

“I think we all need to be aware of the fact that water is precious and we shouldn’t be wasting it,” he said.

B.C.’s premier alongside the Emergency Minister Bowinn Ma have both stressed the severity of the situation in the province, citing these levels of drought have never occurred this early in the summer before now.

Two-thirds of the province’s water basins are currently at Drought Level four or five, out of a scale of zero to five for severity.

Several communities in B.C. currently have water restrictions in place, and Ma announced more may be on the way in the near future.

READ MORE: Water restrictions, changes on tap for North Okanagan

READ MORE: Drought update follows minister’s call for B.C. residents to conserve water

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