Water efficiency not such a "big deal" after all?
The Comox Valley Regional District is grappling with some pretty serious water issues, but a shortage isn't one of them.
"During the most recent election, people were very concerned. Kind of a mythology has been created that we're short of water," said Courtenay Councillor Jon Ambler, who sits on the CVRD's water committee . "It rains 200 days per year here. We're not short of water...so this whole notion of water restrictions needs to be examined, because I think we're going down the wrong road here."
The CVRD has launched a massive campaign promoting water efficiency, with the slogan "A Big Deal," but Ambler says it's just the opposite.
"Water that is 'saved,' where is it saved? Is it in a tank for us to use later? No it's not. It's just not used.
"We buy our water from BC Hydro and it comes down a big pipe from the lake and feeds into a hydro-electricity dam. Of 100 gallons that comes down the pipe, less than one gallon is for the Comox Valley people who use it. So if we went to zero water use, turned the tap off completely, BC Hydro would barely notice, so we're not short of water in any respect."
Even the argument to preserve water infrastructure doesn't add up for Ambler. He says provincial authorities like BC Health will order investment in certain infrastructure no matter how much water is consumed.
"Should it be wasted? Of course not. But when I buy water, like when I buy gasoline or when I buy potatoes, I'm allowed to do with them what I want. I can boil them, I can fry them, I can drive on Tuesdays, I can drive fast on Tuesdays or not at all," says Ambler. "When you put on a water restriction and say you can only water your lawn on Tuesdays and Thursdays, guess what? There's a spike in water use on Tuesdays and Thursdays, yet it was the spikes in water use that people were trying to avoid."
The value of water restrictions is on the Comox Valley water committee's radar, but progress is slow because the committee's entire governance structure is currently under question.
The City of Courtenay wants to increase its powers of decision making, by having more representatives at the table and therefore more votes. Their reasoning is that Courtenay is the largest consumer of water, so the City should have a larger say in how the resource is managed.
"If you increase Courtenay's vote and the areas A, B and C can't have less than one vote, it has to come at the expense of Comox," explains Ambler. "That's patently unfair. Absurd. It wouldn't work."
The new solution being examined is increasing the total number of water committee members and therefore, the number of votes.
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