Let’s focus on water solutions

I believe reducing water consumption brings an opportunity to change our perception of water.

In response to J. Bodkin’s letter ‘Wary of Unintended Consequences’ of water rate hikes, I agree that unintended consequences happen when government decisions are made. But in this instance, I believe reducing water consumption brings an opportunity to change our perception of water.

We can use this as an opportunity to come up with innovative ways to use our water. With that being said, I am not in favour of hiking water rates 17 per cent in two successive years. This actually leads to a 37 per cent increase in two years because of compounding rates.

Rather, I am suggesting this allows residents of the North Okanagan an opportunity to start using the free water that falls on the landscape in the form of precipitation — water harvesting.

I am not talking about just rain barrels, although they are a start. I would like to propose small water harvesting earthworks to pacify and infiltrate our rain water in order to recharge ground water sources. These come in the form of swales, rain gardens, mulched basins and small ponds.

The way storm water currently functions is to centralize all water collected from roofs, roads and other impermeable surfaces. The water gathers in storm sewers in mass volumes and is directed to open water sources (stream, rivers, lakes).

This massive flush of water causes erosion, increased sediment and other ecological problems.

If we allow rain water to infiltrate instead of run off, we reduce the pressure on storm water system. When free rainwater is used in conjunction with alternative landscaping techniques, we can still have beautiful gardens and thriving landscapes.

This does not limit us to xeriscaping and rock gardening. It simply means we must learn from other dry climates to model our landscaping behaviours after. Also, I do not think we will see a reduction in landscaping associated sales/service but we might see a change in species/techniques being offered to suit our drier climate.

Tucson, Arizona gets less than 10 inches of rain a year. They harvest all of their roof and road runoff and direct it through curb cuts into mulched basins to grow beautiful boulevards of trees. The soil microbes filter out all contaminants associated with road runoff so worrying that the trees will die from this is not true.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board just released a book called Slow it, Spread it, Sink it, a homeowners’ guide to implementing rainwater collection and dispersal systems. It’s a book I was lucky enough to contribute to. It is well worth the read to reeducate the masses on alternative methods for water collection, usage and dispersal.

Integrated design also shows that linking these water storage and usage techniques to growing more perennial crop/plants reduces water requirements. Perennial plants, unlike annuals, have more established root systems and can tap into deep-water reserves.

If you would like to know more, Okanagan College offers courses on rain water harvesting for the Interior and more companies are starting to offer similar services.

The rate changes are going to happen no matter what, so let’s work together to find solutions instead of focusing on the problems.

Gordon Hiebert