Mind your water
By Amy Huva, environmental chemist from Australia who now works in the environmental industry in Vancouver.
For people living in Canada, and especially BC, this can be a rather abstract concept. What do you mean think about water? It rains all the time in Vancouver! There’s lots of water – so much that my back porch is growing moss!
When I moved to Vancouver from Australia and it rained for three days straight, I got really excited – much to the amusement of my cousins here. They thought it was rather odd to get excited about rain, but I was coming from a country of drought. Whenever the weatherman in Melbourne said that it was going to rain, generally the safe bet was not to believe them.
Water holes that once provided habitat for birds and wildlife in the Lachlan river system, lie dry and lifeless during extreme drought conditions. Condoblin District, Western NSW. Australia. June 2003. © Adam Oswell / WWF-Canon
It can be difficult to describe what it’s like to live with a long term drought unless you’ve seen it yourself. For several years in Melbourne, we had permanent water restrictions – not just agricultural water restrictions, but in the city as well. The restrictions meant that it was illegal to water your garden with an automated sprinkler system, illegal to fill your swimming pool with fresh water and illegal to wash your car.
People were being encouraged to take 3 minute showers to try and conserve water, and at my house we had an egg timer in the shower to make sure you didn’t run the water too long. In the heat of the summer (which if you’ve ever watched the Australian Open tennis tournament you’ll know is really hot), when the plants in the backyard were looking really stressed out, we started putting buckets in the bottom of the shower to stand in, so that afterwards we could put the buckets of water on the garden to try and keep it alive.
Drought is a very different type of natural disaster because it’s slow. It’s not a giant storm that comes through and is gone the next day and you start cleaning up. It’s a pressure-cooker of slowly worsening conditions where it doesn’t rain, and then it doesn’t rain, and then it still doesn’t rain. The increasing pressure of ongoing drought means that water becomes a big deal – billboards and newspapers update on water storage levels; it becomes a conversation topic.
Seeing people running a tap without thinking about it makes me anxious to turn it off. Wasting water is a big deal in a drought.
So to arrive in Vancouver to rain was a relief! The rain here still doesn’t really bother me, because it means I can relax knowing that there isn’t a drought here and we’re not going to run out of water any time soon. BC is blessed with not only stunning mountains and forests and animals, it has an abundance of fresh water.
On World Water Day, it is a good idea to take a moment to reflect on how lucky we are here, and how different it is in places like Australia. There’s only a small fraction of the water on the planet that is fresh and accessible to humans. Even if it seems abundant and endless here in BC, it’s still a good idea to be mindful of how you use it and make sure you’re not wasting the resource that is the second most important thing on Earth.
Amy Huva is an environmental chemist and sports fanatic from Melbourne, Australia. She worked for the Australian government for two years before packing her bags for the ski fields of British Columbia. She now works in the environmental industry in Vancouver and blogs regularly for CarbonTalks.ca. All opinions expressed in this blog are her own.