Water conservation tips for Metro Vancouver during drought

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      So we're now at Stage 3 out of four stages in the Greater Vancouver Water District water shortage response plan.

      As of July 19, the total water storage for Metro Vancouver usage is now down to 69 percent left. We've plummeted below the normal range and are far below the levels recorded for the previous two years.

      We've been spoiled living in a rain forest, with a seemingly endless supply of water. But considering the ongoing unpredictability of climate and natural resources that has become the new norm, below is a list of some household water-saving tips that you can consider—perhaps even implementing some of them permanently.

      Although many of the tips may seem obvious or you may have heard of many these before, it's a pertinent time to reconsider some you may have overlooked. The thing is, if you've ever observed other peoples' habits in locker rooms or in other public arenas, you've probably seen them wasting a lot of water in several ways that could be changed.

      This is only a sample of tips, and there are numerous others that can be found online, including at the Metro Vancouver and the City of West Vancouver website. Some tips may seem small, but doing several at a time can all add up to saving a lot of water.

      There are also several online water calculators that can help you determine how much water your household uses. Some can even help you identify areas where you can reduce water waste and improve water conservation.

      If you need further incentive, some of these tips may actually help you save money on water-heating bills.

      Another option is to consider buying a water conservation kit from your city hall. Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Delta all sell them. Various cities, including Richmond, North Vancouver, and West Vancouver, also have rebate programs (for toilets and washing machines) or sell rain barrels so you can also check your city's website for more details.

      You can also report water usage violations to the City of Vancouver by phone and by app. (Keep an eye out for Tom Selleck.)

      If you have have any other suggestions, feel free to add them in the comments section below.


      Now's the time to check taps, pipes, faucets, hoses, toilets, water tanks, and the like for any leaks or drips and get them fixed.

      If you insulate your pipes, heated water will arrive faster when you turn on the tap and less water will be wasted in the process of waiting for it.

      According to figures from Metro Vancouver, 23 percent of home water usage is from washing clothes. Consider only running the washing machine if you have a full, rather than partial, load. You can also consider ways to reduce the frequency you have to wash clothes.

      If you have children, consider finding alternatives to water-dependent toys and activities.


      Don't leave the tap running while washing dishes by hand, cleaning vegetables or fruits, or any other kitchen sink activities.

      When you do wash vegetables and fruits, you can catch the water in a container and use it to water plants afterward. Or wash your vegetables in a container of water, rather than under the running tap.

      Rather than using hot water to thaw frozen foods, defrost foods by leaving them in the fridge.

      Only run the dishwasher if you have a full, rather than partial, load. You can also think about ways to reduce the amount of items you need to wash on a daily basis, such as reusing cups.

      Let pots and pans soak in water to soften hard-to-remove food remains, rather than scrubbing them under the running tap.

      Compost food, rather than using a garburator or garbage disposal that requires water.

      Consider ways to minimize water usage when cooking. For instance, consider steaming, baking, or frying instead of boiling (which actually leaches nutrients out of food). Some alternatives may actually help food retain more nutrients.


      Keep a jug of water in your fridge, instead of running the tap and waiting for the water to get cold.

      If you're going to the gym or doing outdoor activities where you expect to drink from a water fountain, take along a filled water bottle instead—it will save water by not running the fountain to wait until the water is cold or wasting excess water while you're drinking from the fountain.

      At work or at home, consider finding alternatives to making pots of coffee if no one is going to drink the remaining amounts. It could save you or your company money.

      Even better for the hot summer months: save the leftover coffee by putting it in the fridge and making iced coffee or (if at home) use the leftover coffee for recipes, serving with ice cream, using it in smoothies, making coffee ice cubes with it, et cetera.

      If you have any excess drinking water, consider using it to water plants or trees rather than throwing it down the drain.


      According to Metro Vancouver, 30 percent of home water usage comes from toilet-flushing.

      If you don’t have a low-flow toilet, put a water displacer, such as a tank bank (a plastic bag filled with liquid), in your toilet tank. An old trick is to stick a brick in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water being used.

      This one's obvious but it's surprising how many people don't do this: when you're not directly using water, turn off the tap! You can do this while you're brushing your teeth, shaving with a razor, lathering your hands, shampooing your hair, and various other things.

      Don't use the toilet to flush away garbage, such as used Kleenex, that can be thrown out in the trash.

      Consider ways you could reduce unnecessary or excessive use of water simply out of habit.

      An alternative to washing your hands with soap and water is using hand-sanitizer. This might be something to consider as an option if you are a frequent handwasher.

      Men: When using public washrooms, consider using a urinal instead of a toilet if possible.


      Here's an easy one: when showering, turn on the shower to wet yourself, then turn it off temporarily while lathering up. Then, turn the water back on to rinse yourself. It actually helps you apply soap more effectively on your body when the water's off. Also, turn the water off while you're shampooing your hair, then turn it back on to rinse it. (If you think this is too obvious, the next time you're in a public shower room, take note of how many people don't do this.)

      Catch unused water during a shower in a bucket for other uses.

      Low-flow showerheads can also reduce the amount of water you use. You can save gallons of water, as well as money, this way by reducing the amount of hot water you use.

      Install a shower timer that will give you a visual indication of how long you're spending in the shower.


      Have a sponge bath: an alternative to bathing or showering is to use a washcloth or sponge at a sink or basin to wipe down the body with soap and water.

      Consider Japanese-style communal bathing: If you and other members in your household absolutely have to bathe for specific reasons (or something to consider in colder weather), one option to think about is Japanese-style communal bathing. Before using ofuro (deep-soaking Japanese baths) and sento (communal bath houses), bathers wash themselves outside the tub and only enter the bath waters to soak in it, leaving the bathing waters free of soap and dirt. This can be done at home by sponge bathing or briefly showering first before soaking in heated bath water. (Those who aren't used to this idea may think it's strange but if you're game, go for it!)

      Consider bathing young children together at the same time.


      Place a layer of mulch around trees and plants to slow down the evaporation of moisture. As an added bonus, it will also discourage weed growth.

      Move any plants into the shade wherever possible to decrease the chances of the soil drying out.

      Removing weeds from your lawn and garden will reduce the amount of competition your plants and lawn have for water.

      Use a broom, rather than your hose, to clean your sidewalks and driveway.

      Install a rain barrel to collect rainwater (check your city's website to find out if they are selling any, like Richmond does). This one's for when the rains do finally return and something to make a permanent habit of using.

      If you don't have a shut-off valve for your hose, now's the time to get one so it only runs when it's in use.

      Grasscylcing: When cutting grass, leave the clippings where they fall on the lawn. Grass is made of 50 to 80 percent water, so they will decompose quickly while preserving soil moisture and returning nutrients to the soil.

      If you have any other suggestions, you can add them in the comments section below.



      David Wilson

      Jul 21, 2015 at 11:54pm

      I live in a new home that has a water meter. We pay a yearly bill for all the water we consume. The meter causes me to be conscious of the water I use as I have to pay for it, even though I already pay property taxes. I don't mind. And all new home in Metro Vancouver now have water meters installed. Maybe it's time that every home in Metro Vancouver has a water meter installed so that water users become more conscientious of their water usage. I'm pretty sure consumption would drop.

      As well, it's not like climate change is something new anymore. And we have had a very dry spring season. You could see the lack of snow on the local mountains and know that there was not any snowpack on the mountains which we rely upon for spring and summer run off. How could Metro Vancouver not anticipate water consumption and subsequent lack of replenishment sooner and put in place water restrictions sooner than they have? Perhaps next year we should go directly to tighter water management in the spring before summer rolls around.


      Jul 22, 2015 at 1:35pm

      water later in the day so less water evaporates.

      Consumer Dropout

      Jul 22, 2015 at 8:14pm

      I'll start putting a bucket in my shower just as soon as Christy stops giving water away to bottling companies.


      Jul 23, 2015 at 12:07am

      water conservation protip: shower in the sprinklers at your local golf course.

      Gregory Ross

      Jul 26, 2015 at 2:43pm

      Almost every detached home in Vancouver has a lawn, which is simply a useless , never used patch of grass that demands water constantly. The home-owner also must cut the lawn constantly to preseve it's sterile neatness.. With all the new houses being built these days perhaps the city could come up with an incentive foe any new homes for waterless yards like rock gardens which can in reality prove much more interesting as each one would be different. No watering, no rodents digging, no mowing. Existing homeowners should also be encouraged to consider getting rid of the ugly useless water sucking green patch with a tax rebate or convertion funds. I think this would help prepare Vancouver for the inevitable droughts that we are going to see at present an
      d in the future . This program might be called "Lawn b' gone" , "Get your grass outta here" , My Lawn Rocks or maybe "No More Mower. Just a thought, that could drastically preserve alot totally wasted precious water.