A Gardener's Diary: Conserving water makes sense

We just got our water bill for the last quarter of 2012. I was happy to find out that all those rain barrels and buckets really make a difference in the amount we are using.

I got some information from a B.C. government website, Living Water Smart, that I would like to share with you.

Less than three per cent of municipally-treated water is actually used for drinking. The rest goes down the drain, down the toilet, or on our gardens.  The average adult drinks only about 1.5 litres of water per day, and that includes water used in drinks such as coffee, tea and juice. Canada’s per capita water consumption is 65 per cent above the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average, second only to the U.S. Developing countries typically use 10 times less water than developed countries.

An average garden hose pours out 20 litres of water per minute. A lot of water can be wasted when gardening or washing the car if you don’t turn it off. A running tap pours out seven-to-12 litres a minute. Turn them off whenever possible, put the plug in or catch the water you need in a glass or pan. A water saving toilet (six litres per flush) can save you up to 14 litres each time you flush. For the average family that’s 25,000 litres per year, with that water you could fill 25 hot tubs.

Dripping taps are a major cause of wasted water and can also cause water damage in the home. Fixing a dripping tap can save up to 300 litres of quality B.C. drinking water per week.

In the summer, one mature pine tree needs about 20-to-40 litres of water per day. This water is taken up from the ground and then transpired (released into the air). Beef cattle need about 45 litres per day and dairy cattle need about 135 litres per day. These amounts increase by one and a half to two times on a hot day.

In B.C. we use about 490 litres per person per day – not including industrial or agricultural use of water. Usually, in the home, toilets will use 30 percent and about another 30 percent is needed for bathing. B.C. residents use much more water than the Canadian average, which is currently about 330 litres per person per day. Our water use is also much higher than many other developed countries. By conserving water, we reduce the need for new infrastructure like dams and water treatment plants. This will help avoid the negative impacts of new dams and save the community money.

Generally it is much less expensive to conserve water than it is to get it from a new supply source. For every glass of water we save, we have to produce and treat one less glass from the environment.

In 2006, we used the average of 388 litres per person and I didn’t have a garden. In 2010, we got a couple barrels and the average went to 294 litres per day. Last year with all the new barrels and a bit of extra work and a very large garden, we managed to bring it down to 199 litres. I would encourage everyone to get at least one rain barrel even if it is only to water the plants outside. Plants love rain water and gardens cannot live without it.

For more information: 250-558-4556.

— Jocelyne Sewell is a gardening enthusiast, member of Okanagan Gardens and Roses Club and The Morning Star's gardening columnist, appearing every other Wednesday.


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