Personal experience tells me that two lumberjacks can survive on 40 litres of water for six working days – drinking, washing and dishes included.
Naturally, the hygiene suffers and the first two minutes in the seventh-day shower far surpasses the total water consumption of the prior six days combined. With the possible exception of small-time loggers in the frozen north, hundreds of miles from sanity, Canadians are not known for their water conservation.
“People view water as a renewable resource,” said Karen Sheydwasser of The Bath House. She believes North Americans are wasteful by nature and will not conserve water until there is a serious rationing problem.
Edmonton boasts 3,146 kilometres of main freshwater pipelines that transport an average of 394 litres of water to each individual per day.
|Kenton Friesen, Business Edge|
|Canada may have an abundance of water — such as these falls at Mt. Robson Park — but new gadgets are helping us use this precious more wisely.|
In Alberta, where three million people share almost 20,000 square kilometres of fresh water, it takes a drought like the one this spring or a Walkerton experience to demonstrate that fresh water at the turn of a tap is a privilege. Yes, this is Canada – land of 16 rivers more than 1,000 kilometres long and lakes the size of inland seas. But scientists, including the University of Alberta’s David Schindler, warn that caution is necessary to preserve one of our greatest assets.
The Canadian Water Resources Association, the Soil and Water Conservation Society (Alberta Chapter) and other hydrological groups are encouraging Canadians to recognize good water as a heritage to be safeguarded for future generations.
Students are taught proper water relationships through Project WET, an international initiative aiming to lessen water pollution and excessive use through education.
Both pollution control and conservation can be practised by individual households, enough so that the plumbing and appliance industry has changed course to capitalize on the desires of the conscientious consumer.
Twenty years ago, the standard toilet tank in Edmonton held 20 to 36 litres of water. Now the standard is less than 20, with many toilets keeping society civilized with a mere six litres per flush — purchased mainly by consumers motivated to save money on utility bills.
At 94.22 cents per 1,000 litres, an average Edmonton family spends about $25 per month on water.
“There are lots of people that don’t want to have anything to do with (low-flush toilets),” said Sheydwasser. People over 50 are particularly skeptical, and some poorly constructed small-tank toilets are, indeed, unsatisfactory.
The Bath House recommends the Kohler Wellworth toilet, with its enlarged two-inch, glazed trapway and siphon jet that blasts water somewhat like a commercial toilet. This high-speed piece of furniture costs about $200, comparable in price to its standard-sized cousins of similar high quality and sleek design.
Minimalist home decor is also a driving factor in the trend to low-flush toilets. Wall-hung units are the fad, and the tanks must hide in a wall.
The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) now requires showerheads to not exceed a flow of 2.5 gallons per minute, about one-third of normal volume. With an approved showerhead, Edmontonians can shower for 110 minutes for a loonie.
“I would say probably only hard-core water conservationists would want that. Most customers like a strong shower,” said Sheydwasser, adding that nine times out of 10, the customer asks to have the flow restrictor taken out. “If (the government) was trying to be extremely strict on this being the law, then they would make those restrictors so they were not removable.”
Approved showerheads such as the Emco Tinkle King build up decent pressure by forcing the water through smaller holes, said Elmer Strembesky of Amre Supply. Top-loading washing machines are starting to give way to European-styled front-loading machines. The latter consume much less water, but there is a trade-off.
“We can’t figure out how they consider themselves an energy saver,” said Strembesky. A normal washing machine does a load in about 45 minutes, while the Asko front-loader takes about two hours. Its saving grace may be that it doesn’t run continuously for the entire time, but rather runs and then soaks, runs and soaks.
At $1,500 or more per Asko, the newer technology is pricey, but with the water-saving features comes a better machine.
Of course, buying high-end European fixtures and appliances is not every Edmontonian’s idea of therapeutic spending. But installing a 50-cent washer into a dripping bathroom sink produces some of the same results and encourages a better night’s sleep.