Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink
Living in a city that's virtually surrounded by water, it's difficult to imagine not having enough. But 97% of the earth's water is in the oceans and undrinkable in its current state. Desalination, the process of making it drinkable, uses extremely large amounts of energy, expensive infrastructure and damages marine life and ecosystems. It's prohibitively expensive compared to using fresh water from rivers or groundwater. Unfortunately, less than 3/4 of one percent of the earth's water is easily accessible in rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater.
It's puzzling, then, that so little attention is paid to conserving this finite natural resource. Groundwater in the US, China and India is being depleted much faster than it can be replenished and the water tables are falling steadily. Unsustainable use by our ever-increasing population, drought, deforestation, over-grazing and pollution are all taking their toll on water supplies.
The bottom line is that fresh water will not be flowing as freely a decade from now. There are many strategies that we can pursue in our efforts to provide a sustainable supply of potable water for the planet, but at the most basic human level, it's simple. We all need to lower our consumption and conserve water - NOW!
As a homeowner, you can be part of the solution. Think about your water usage and lower it. How many of us mindlessly brush our teeth or shave with the tap running. Low-flow, high-pressure taps and toilets will save many liters of water - and the toilets look so European! Low water dishwashers and washing machines will elevate you to the next level of water conservation. Even basic maintenance such as checking your taps and pipes for leaks, and fixing them, will make a difference. If you have a garden, look for drought-tolerant or native species of plants to reduce water consumption. Get a rain barrel to collect rain water for use in the garden.
Check out the City of Vancouver website [vancouver.ca] for more tips on saving water. I read through their list of potential water conservation strategies and was pleased to see that they're considering greywater recycling solutions such as using water from showers to flush toilets and so on. This doesn't appear to be a requirement for new residential buildings yet, but I expect that it will be in the near future.