Manitoba has extremes of climate. Some years we experience drought and flooding – at the same time in some places. All our hot dry weather in this summer (2011) is leading to nearly record water usage. In July, Winnipeggers used over 7.7 billion litres of water, the highest level in the past five years. All that water use puts a strain on our infrastructure and on the environment.
Some of the costs of water use
In Winnipeg, pumping, treating and distributing clean drinking water are a major drain on our energy grid. Almost one third of the City of Winnipeg’s greenhouse gas emissions are related to water and wastewater treatment. Even though our water source in Shoal Lake is plentiful and upstream, it takes significant energy to treat it to make it potable. That is one reason why some people are switching to grey water toilets. Why use high quality expensive water to flush our waste?
More pressure on treatment plants:
Some of Manitoba’s waste water infrastructure is nearly a century old. In 2002, a failure at the North End Treatment Plant in Winnipeg leaked almost half a billion litres raw sewage into the Red River. Combined sewers put even more strain on the system with flooding every time it rains. The more we can reduce our water usage, the easier it is on our system.
Depletion of groundwater
Winnipeg has a plentiful water supply at Shoal Lake in Ontario, and our aqueduct has the capacity to keep up with our usage in the next century. But other areas of the province of are much more strained in their capacity. Over 300 thousand Manitobans depend on groundwater for their drinking water. Some aquifers are nearly at their capacity, especially in southwest Manitoba. As global climate change brings warmer weather, water scarcity could become a real problem in our province.
Tips for using less water:
- Try planting native plants in your yard that use less water. Living Prairie Museum and Fort Whyte Alive! are great places to get started learning more, or visit your local garden shop.
- Check out the Manitoba Eco-Network’s Organic Lawn Care program for ideas on using less water in your yard.
- Check your toilet and faucets for leaks. A drop of food dye in your toilet tank can quickly measure how much you are leaking down the drain.
- Get a rain barrel to capture free water from your lawn and garden. The City of Winnipeg offers a sale every spring, as do many non-profit organizations and other municipalities.
- Get a Manitoba Hydro Water Saving kit. They are free and include a quality low flow shower head, water aerators and other handy water saving devices. You can order yours free online. They are easy to install. Watch Manitoba Eco-Network’s short video on how to install aerators and showerheads.
- Take advantage of the local and federal programs to get low flow toilets. The Federal Eco-energy program has been extended until March 2012. A City of Winnipeg program can get you another $60 off. With both grants, you toilet may be almost free, and you will save money every time you flush.
- Keep cool water for drinking in your fridge. There is no need to run the tap cold before you drink. Add a bit of lemon balm or other herbs for a yummy treat!
What are you doing to save water? Let us know any tips you have.