Water conservation: Me, you and the blue

Save money and the environment with these water conservation tips

by Zoë Dupley
A picture of Avery Deboer-Smith

Avery Deboer-Smith is the program manager for the Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society. Originally from Nelson, she aims to protect the area that influenced her love of nature. — Albert Law photo

High water consumption is not only bad for the environment, but it’s also easy to overlook in our efforts to go green. Water is used in high quantities for food and clothing production, landscaping and garden irrigation. It’s also used in high quantities for household cleaning and personal hygiene. With an extra-long shower or extra load of laundry, the average household winds up with an extra large utility bill.

There are several ways and reasons to cut back on our water usage.

Avery Deboer-Smith, program manager of Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society (FOKLSS), previously worked as a private contractor for the regional District of Central Kootenay and the City of Nelson and has a bank of knowledge when it comes to saving water.

In your yard and garden

"My favourite tip (for gardening) is mulching," said Deboer-Smith. "If you're growing food or shrubs or trees, you can put mulch around the base to help with moisture retention. This will also reduce the amount of weeds that grow."

Mulch can be either plastic or organic, but Deboer-Smith cautions against the plastic alternative, as it can leach toxins into the soil and affect the plant’s health.

"I would also recommend drip irrigation, because it's the most efficient,” said Deboer-Smith. “It puts the water directly at the roots of the plant, directly where it needs to go. Some plants will grow better this way and produce more food."

By watering lawns with automatic or manual sprinklers, homeowners often over-water. What might be interpreted as grass dying from lack of water can actually be the opposite. Many lawns can be healthy with significantly less watering.

"Over-watering our lawns is the biggest source of water consumption in North America,” said Deboer-Smith, “and unfortunately, we can't even eat it. The water could certainly be going to better use."

Grass should be watered in the early morning to prevent evaporation and fungus growth.

Moisture and rain sensors are now available that won’t turn on the automatic sprinklers if the lawns don’t need watering.

A view of Duck Bay

A view of Duck Bay, near Nelson, B.C. — Photo courtesy Avery Deboer-Smith

In your home or business

Businesses and homes can install low-flow toilets, aerators for shower heads or taps, and high-efficiency dishwashers and washing machines. These can all be bought second-hand to reduce cost and lower our carbon footprint.

“You can use toilet bags that attach to the tank as a cheap alternative to buying a low-flow toilet,” said Deboer-Smith.

Homeowners can also wash laundry in fewer but larger loads and avoid the permanent press setting, which uses extra water for the final rinse. Turning off the tap while brushing teeth or shaving also reduces the amount of water headed down the drain.

Saving more water for future generations and keeping the water where it is meant to be (in the habitats and ecosystems of the animals that also need it) are huge reasons to lower our water consumption.

For more information on water conservation, visit your local government website to review bylaws and see what conservation techniques are available in your area.

The volunteers of FOKLSS cleaning up the beach of Kootenay Lake

The Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society holds workshops and implements initiatives throughout the year to restore and protect Kootenay Lake and the surrounding areas. — Photo courtesy Avery Deboer-Smith

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