In the coming decade, it is predicted that Vancouver water supply problems could experience shortages due to a growing population and worsening climate change. Local officials are trying to prepare for this challenge by proposing various preventive measures. These includes enacting campaigns to encourage residents to conserve water and investing in the upgrading of the city’s infrastructure. Infrastructure spending means that local residents will have to pay more for their water consumption.
Climate change will impact the water supply of areas that are largely dependent on winter snow. Snowpacks could continue to shrink unless more aggressive solutions are employed to mitigate this phenomenon. Snowpacks refers to the total amount of snow and ice on the ground. In high mountain ranges and other cold places, snowpacks builds up in the winter and melt in the spring and summer.
According to research, British Columbia has experienced 16 droughts more severe than any since the 1970s. During the winter in 2015, there was scant snowfall followed by a summer without rain for four months. Several steps were undertaken by the local municipalities. They imposed strict water rationing, total ban on lawn watering and car washing as well as restrictions on irrigating gardens and power washing.
Inder Singh, Metro Vancouver’s Director of Policy, Planning and Analysis for Water Services said that such an occurrence was an example of a very unusual, unprecedented situation that is more likely to occur on a more frequent basis as we move into the future. His projections suggest that a supply gap is expected in 2030 even without a severe drought.
Several factors will affect the supply of water in Vancouver. Metro Vancouver’s population is expected to grow by 35,000 people a year over the next few decades. Demand for water is expected with the increase in population. Climate predictions also suggest a number of future changes that could strain water supply. In addition, an earlier spring and longer summer would mean a longer dry season with typically little or no rain.
Vancouver will have to look at more expensive and labour intensive options such as tapping new water resources, raising the heights of existing dams at reservoirs and adding extra dams farther up or downstream of existing reservoirs. Singh referred to them as multi-million-dollar projects. The provincial and federal government might contribute but local residents will have to pay for the infrastructure improvements themselves through higher water rates.
Metro Vancouver’s current financial plan has recorded a 27 percent increase in the wholesale cost of water services between 2018 and 2022. And that is before any major new water projects have been built. These enormous costs can be deferred through water conservation and reducing the need for an increased supply.
So far, there have been recommendations for water use restrictions during the dry season which can be enforced by individual municipalities as well as water metering for residential buildings as conservation measures.
Werner Antweiler, an associate professor at the Sauder School of Business recommends metering all homes, doubling water rates in the summer and tripling it during droughts. He believes that this will encourage residents to take water conservation efforts more seriously and could have a significant impact on protecting the city’s water supply.
Reclaimed wastewater offers a viable solution to water shortages. It can be reused in irrigation, wetlands and aquifers restoration, and even for drinking. Water recycling will continue to gain traction in Canada as good public policy, clear regulations and robust research continue to develop in various parts of the country.
If you are a municipality in Ontario and in need of a biosolids management solution, please feel free to contact us at 1 (877) 479-1388.