Editorial: Water conservation becomes the standard, prudent thing to practice

Gazette Introductory Note: It’s good to be reminded now and again that rules and regulations often make sense. It’s our nature to dislike being “regulated,” but surely no one would honestly deny that the onerous restrictions placed upon Americans by the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts have worked wonders to clean up our environment. The terrible burden of auto emissions standards placed upon the auto industry have performed a miracle in cleaning up our air, and contrary to the predictions of crusty regulation-haters,  requiring catalytic converts has not shut down the auto industry or made cars so expensive that no one can afford them. The following editorial from the Vancouver Sun reminds us that even the government sometimes knows what it’s doing.–Hardly Waite.

Every attempt at broad-brush solutions to problems seems accompanied by its black comedy of peculiarities. For example, bring in watering restrictions to deal with the prolonged dry spell that’s running down Metro Vancouver’s drinking water reservoirs and you generate seemingly wacky contradictions.

If you wash your car in the driveway with a hand-held, spring-loaded shut-off nozzle, that’s an offence but if you take it to a commercial car wash where automated robots do it, that’s fine, and you can do it every day if you are so inclined. You can’t refill your spa tub on the back deck but you can go indoors and use the soaker tub with whirlpool jets as often as you like. You can wash artificial turf but watering the natural lawn is a no-no.

Such oddities are always good for griping about city hall and its endless follies, but that’s all they’re good for. In most cases they are illusions. The robots at that commercial car wash are much more frugal than you. It’s estimated that washing a car by hand uses about from 300-500 litres of water. The car wash robots will use about 170 litres and wax, polish and dispose of the soapy water properly, not down the storm drain. An automatic dishwasher will clean your dinner dishes with one-sixth the water used in hand-washing and, because it’s so efficient with the hot water, will use only about half the energy. That energy is generated by spilling precious water through turbines or by burning fossil fuels, both of which exacerbate the connected problems of water reserves and climate change.

So once we have done with the mandatory Canadian ritual of huffing over apparent contradictions that prove we’re governed by fools, it’s more useful to back the wise philosophy of water frugality as a new norm imposed by climate change. Our rainy winters have encouraged us to think of fresh water as a limitless resource. But as prolonged droughts elsewhere and now in British Columbia and Canada’s western plains indicate, that’s not necessarily so.

If these dry conditions prove to be the new summer normal, prudence suggests we start thinking about water conservation as the standard rather than the exception. We should, even if this drought proves anomalous. On a range of possibilities, one must be that things could prove even more extreme in the future. The time seems ripe for a serious public conversation about what we should be doing to plan for our civic adaptation in the way we live that changing climate seems increasingly likely to impose with increasing severity, frequency and duration.

Source: The Vancouver Sun.

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