Monthly Archives: May 2017

Cape Town water shortage…

Here is some water news out of Cape Town , South Africa.

Water usage must come down immediately by 100 million litres per day. Dam storage levels are at 20.7%, with the last 10% not really usable…so really there is only 10.7% left. The city has a consumption target of 600 million litres per day, but is 93 million litres a day over that target.

On Monday the drought stricken Western Cape area was declared a disaster area by the Premier. Everyone is being asked to keep their water usage to 100 litres per day. Cape Town is experiencing the effects of climate change, with reduced rainfall and abnormal water patterns. No significant rainfall is expected in the next three weeks.

Since the implementation of the water restrictions Cape Town’s call centre and first line responders have been inundated with calls about water faults and leaks. 75 new staffers have been brought on to increase response time to the some 800 calls per day.

With the call to restrict water usage some people have already reduced their consumption to less than a third of what it used to be….while others have decided their needs are more important than everyone else’s.

Residents are encouraged to use water solely for cooking , drinking and washing, and only flush the toilet when necessary. Shorter showers are also encouraged. Don’t run the water to brush teeth, shave, and drink. Wait for a full load before doing laundry or the dishes.

Everyone is urged to check for leaks on their property. A leaky toilet wastes 2600 to 13,000 litres per month. A leaky tap between 400 and 2600 litres a month

Every single water user must get down to 100 litres per person per day. This is non negotiable.

So this is the state of affairs in that part of the world when it comes to water. As Ottawa recovers from an overflowing Ottawa River, another part of the world suffers from a drought.

Water in Italy

To help understand the water situation in Italy let’s begin in the Alps. Global warming effects precipitation in the Alps,as well as snow and rain , and the timing of the snow melt. An overall decrease in the snow pack has been observed in the 20th century at low and mid level ranges. Trends are less significant at the higher ranges. The changes affect stream flow in the mountains with a general trend toward an earlier snow melt.

With respect to water access Italians are pretty good with 100% of city dwellers and 97% of rural dwellers having access. 70% of the population has access to sanitation. Water is becoming a social and economic emergency in Apulia, Basilicata, Sicily , and Sardinia due to increasing demand and lack of management. Decreases in precipitation will make things worse , with  possibly a 25% increase in stress on the water supply this century.

The expected impact of climate change in southern Europe will be affecting the quantity, quality, and over all availability. This means more droughts can be expected. Also, it is noted the groundwater resources are dwindling , recharging in not happening to the degree it once did.

Southern Italy is having more trouble meeting demand. with droughts and increase in demand, especially from farms…irrigation becomes even more problematic. Economic damage to agriculture , especially in the Po Valley could become extensive.

So with respect to water stress in the coming years, Italy may face….

  1. an increase of stress on the water supply by 25% this century.
  2. socio-economic emergency in some specific areas.
  3. reduced water supplies affecting drinking water, irrigation in the Po Valley , and less water for power generation.
  4. increased soil dryness and drought.
  5. water quality depletion.
  6. conflicts over the multiple uses of water.
  7. navigation of lakes and rivers becomes more difficult due to lack of water.

Mine tailings impoundment areas.

Dumping mine tailings into lakes and rivers is illegal , unless specifically permitted. The Fisheries Act protects our waters from the release of harmful substances into fish bearing waters and or the alteration of fish habitat….but if the Minister gives permission the fish and their habitat can be destroyed.

In the Fisheries Act there is a regulation call the Metal Mining Effluent Regulation that  allows depositing mine tailings in certain areas under certain circumstances if it protects the environment. These regulations were amended in 2002 to grandfather in 5 mining projects that were using lakes as tailings dumps. This means these natural water bodies are not protected by the Fisheries Act and so a mining company can dump millions of lbs of toxic tailings and waste rock in these Tailing Impoundment Areas.

New mines have seen this loophole and are trying to get pristine lakes near their mines to be a Tailing Impoundment Area. Why build and maintain a tailings pond at the cost of millions of dollars over the life of the mine when you can just dump the waste in a nearby lake?

In 2006 Trout Pond and Duck Pond near Buchans , Newfoundland were approved as Tailings Impoundment Areas. These ponds were formerly home to trout, salmon, and otters. They are now biologically dead zones.

These lakes set the precedent and so international mining companies have been applying to get access to more natural water bodies for their waste.

There is hope. A recent application on Fish Lake,B.C.by Tesako Mines was rejected because if citizen activism. After receiving the application the federal government was flooded by phone calls, emails, and a flood of messages from people across Canada and the application was rejected.

The site near William’s Lake , B.C., is known as Teztan Biny by the local First Nations and is an important traditional site. It is home to its own unique trout species and one of the provinces more productive trout fishing lakes. If the application had gone through this lake would have been killed, destroyed forever. The lake will now be protected.

 

Thanks to the Davi

Nat Geo and Water Aid India Team Up.

Lack of access to good drinking water is the reality for millions of people in India, something that National Geographic and Water Aid India are trying to solve with the launch of Mission Blue. With the help from top Bollywood talent the aim is to raise awareness of water scarcity, and how small acts of conservation on a daily basis can be very helpful to secure safe ,clean water for future generations.

 

Mission Blue will see Nat Geo air documentaries and television specials highlighting the water issues facing India. Several big Bollywood heavy hitters lend themselves to direct short films, available on the Mission Blue website, the show how water scarcity affects the local people’s daily life. Farhan Akhtar, serves as the face of the campaign. National Geographic will also air , Parched, an acclaimed 3 part documentary discussing the environmental and political causes of water problems around the world.

Another innovative way Mission Blue’s website does to engage viewers is to offer them the opportunity to interact with the site to measure their own water usage footprint, and gives different ways to reduce water usage.

In India alone there are 76million people who lack access to clean drinking water. Numbers that will only get worse if no action is taken. Mission blue is hopeful that their initiative will help enlighten people as to the benefits of collective action.

There is also an initiative with Water Aid India for MissionBlueMySchool which provides water to a school in Delhi, which currently relies on tanker trucks to provide the needed water. The initiative with Nat Geo and Water Aid India is to provide piped in water to the 2,500 students ,as well as coolers, filters, and a rainwater harvest system.

 

Flooding in Ottawa

Water is never an issue, until it becomes an issue…then it can become a big issue rather quickly.

Provincial officials will be in Ottawa on Tuesday to help those whose homes have been flooded apply for disaster relief funding. Mayor Jim Watson stated on Monday that the city of Ottawa will not be declaring a state of emergency and won’t be calling in the military.

As of Monday morning 310 homes in Ottawa have been directly affected by flooding. 75 families have been evacuated.  Mayor Watson did thank all the first responders and volunteers who have been a great help to those affected.

I live in Cumberland Village and have seen the effects of the flooding first hand. Interestingly, the flooding seems to have brought out flood tourists. Quite a few people just walking around taking photos.

3 information sessions have been scheduled for Tuesday. Go to Ottawa.ca to find the time and location for the one near you. There is a maximum payment of $250,000 per application. Residents are asked not to get rid of ruined furniture or appliances , until photos are taken and documentation developed on the items. Also, keep receipts of expenses incurred due to the flooding.

The Unflushables

Vancouver is rolling out a new campaign that is aimed at educating residents to stop flushing certain items down the drain…the Unflushables, that clog regional and municipal sewer systems. Sounds like a program that could be applied nationally as the estimated cost of dealing with this across Canada is some $250million.

The 2017 Unflushable Campaign will focus on the worst offenders of clogged drains, wipes, paper towels, dental floss, hair , tampons , applicators, condoms, as well as medications. the Metro Vancouver Utilities Chair Darrell  Mussatto says we wouldn’t believe what people try to flush , but it is the everyday items that cause the most grief. To clear out and clean up the clogs costs Vancouver hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also equipment repair, sewage overflows, and environmental impact.

Medications are included as a Unflushable not because it can clog up the systems , but the medications are difficult to remove from the water and can be flushed out into the environment. Unused or expired meds should be taken to a local pharmacy for disposal.

There is no regulatory standard for what is and is not flushable, but with hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year to correct the effects of the unflushables maybe this should get a look at.

For more on the Unflushables Campaign and the correct way to dispose of the targeted items go to unflushables.ca.

 

 

Harvesting Rainwater..

A mountain, a river , a reservoir, a field, a street, a roof, a gutter all have something in common….they receive rain and can all be considered rain catchers. Rain is free and catching it can have important implications for food and energy production, environmental uses, water supply , and waste water management. Harvesting rain water is usually thought of as water for irrigation, and not so much as a waste water control strategy. This may change where flooding and combined sewer overflows are a problem.

The harvesting of rainwater has been around for at least 2,000 years, to supply both agricultural and domestic needs , in Syria and present day Israel.

Stress on our present water systems comes from the increase in demand due to population increases. climate change, reduced water sources, competing demands from agriculture , energy, and industry. Water and development experts are being forced to come up with new ways to source this valuable resource. 

Consider in cities where surface run off and sewage water end up in the same place. Rainfall does not require treatment like sewage , but does put a burden on waste water treatment plants. Problems can arise when during periods of high rainfall waterways become contaminated by sewage/ rainwater overflows. Perhaps the harvesting of rainfall on a large scale can help alleviate this problem by reducing the amount of runoff going to the treatment plants.

Due to local variations in terms of rainfall amounts, demand, catchment area, price, and regulations we recognize rainwater harvesting won’t work everywhere.  The Columbia Water Center has developed a tool to help determine the viability of rainwater harvesting. With the help of this tool it has been determined that harvesting of rainwater makes more sense in the Central and Eastern parts of the U.S. This information is useful at the local level to help officials decide if rainwater harvesting should be promoted and study the impact on run off.

 

In closing harvesting rainwater has been around for a long time. Israel even has this idea incorporated into their overall master plan. Harvesting rainwater is an emerging option that may have greater implications for us moving forward.