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Wasteful water use challenged

“Canada is the only country I know of that hasn’t banned 13-litre flush toilets.”

– DAVID BROOKS

David Brooks wants us to stop flushing good drinking water down the toilet.

The keynote speaker, at the Manitoba Conservation District Association conference talked at length about water conservation and following soft paths for water use. Brooks serves as senior adviser for Friends of the Earth.

He encouraged people to think of water as a service, not an end. Where water is necessary to provide cooling, he pointed out that it doesn’t have to be “drinking-water” quality. He said more should be done to match the use of the water to the quality of the water.

“Don’t use drinking water to flush the toilet,” he said, noting, “Canada is the only country I know of that hasn’t banned 13-litre flush toilets.”

The MCDA conference theme resonated throughout the three day-event. “A New Way of Thinking” opened the doors on discussions of topics just dawning.

Brooks had suggestions for water conservation. “Make ecological security an absolute criterion,” he said.

In rural areas, the best management system is to keep waste nearby or on-site. Grey water or storm water can be used effectively for irrigation. Instead of a hose, he encouraged all people to use the “bucket-and-sponge” method to clean equipment and vehicles.

Urbanites were not left out of his “soft path” approach.

He said many institutional barriers exist that are counterproductive to motivating change. He said when landlords pay for water, tenants have no reason to adjust their behaviour.

Urban and rural uses motivated by paying for water use, will find ways to reduce the usage of water. With the new low-flush toilets, water use drops significantly. But there was more. He encouraged low-water or no-water greenery, in other words, don’t water the lawn or if you do, water the lawn with non-drinking-quality water.

Brooks said Ontario could absorb industrial growth with no new water until about 2031 if soft path initiatives were initiated.

He said many more people would be motivated to think of their own water conservation methods if they actually paid for water use. Brooks said all water should be priced by volume, and further, priced by quality.

For towns and cities, there should be a “no new water” policy so houses are designed to separate drinking water and waste water. “Every land use choice is a water choice,” he said.

Speaker, Les Kletke, agricultural author and scholar told the conference he remembered his grandparents thinking that if they put manure in the water in the winter, it would be gone by spring.

With a dose of humour and a disappearing water magic trick to supplement his act, Kletke demonstrated how our wasteful ways will in fact cause water to vanish.

He referred to Albert Einstein’s quote, “You never miss the water ’til the well runs dry,” encouraging the group to get beyond that thinking. Change, while difficult, can be achieved. He said years ago, there would have been an asht ray on every table at the conference. Education shifted the thinking about smoking and smokers are now directed not only outside, but away from the building.

But the MCDA conference was full of the “converted.”

Conservation district manager Ryan Canart from Upper Assiniboine said his plan to build a house has him considering the inclusion of a water collection system to allow him to make use of other sources of water for household needs.

Harold Foster, MCDA chairman, agreed people need to start looking at different options for water conservation.

“We need to be a little bit more alert,” he said.

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