Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and drink: Hey, my fellow water hogs — we’re the winning losers

World Water Day, March 22, might make you think twice



Ah, spring - officially just around the corner, early this year on March 20, and broadly demarcated by wisps of various green shoots, Easter, Norouz (New Day) festival for our Persian friends and, unexpectedly, World Water Day.

Held every year on March 22, loosely approximating spring equinox and other new beginnings, International World Water Day was first declared by the UN in 1993 to focus new awareness on the importance of fresh water, something we Canadians largely take for granted.

Sadly, our loser reputation precedes us. Years ago, when I was in Japan, I stayed with a family friend who had visited Canada. He was far too gracious to lecture, but while showing me the bathroom quietly remarked, Canadians, I remember you use very much water.

Next morning, I showered quickly but, as might be expected, once beyond his purview instantly reverted to my old water ways.

Canadians are the biggest water hogs on Earth. We each use an average of 638 litres/day, beating out the next in line for this ignominious title, our American cousins at 575 litres/day. The Japanese, on the other hand, use an average of 374 litres daily, just over half of what each one of us uses here in B.C.

I don't know if it's all the beer we drink, but British Columbians shame even the Canadian average, consuming some 678 litres of fresh water a day, the lion's share - 65 per cent - in the bathroom. That makes us the world's No. 1 Water Hogs.

By comparison, people in Rwanda, Uganda and pre-earthquake Haiti average a mere 15 litres of water a day. People of Mozambique, our water opposites, live on four litres/day, below the minimum the UN has identified for human survival - three to five litres/day for drinking with another 20 litres daily for cooking, bathing and cleaning.

World Water Day or not, water is on the radar screen of Whistlerites. But not in all the ways we might like it to be.

"Water" is one of the sustainability indicators in the Whistler 2020 strategy, a good thing. However, the numbers show that in 2008, the most recent year given for that indicator, average Whistler water usage, although below the Canadian and B.C. averages, came in exactly the same as that of our U.S. friends: 575 litres/day.

The overall trend, however, is up - up from the 2007 average (520 litres/day), up from the average in 2000 (508 litres/day), when the 2020 sustainability program started and no one was really trying.

Given wiser use of anything starts with awareness, I rang up James Hallisey, the municipal manager of environmental projects, who shared a wealth of water information.