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Water-rich no more. Boiling climate change down to personal water use habits.

coq res 1Metro Vancouver’s water comes from three protected mountain reservoirs: Capilano, Seymour and Coquitlam. I took the tour of the Coquitlam watershed on August 6, 2015 and got a firsthand view of Metro Vancouver’s shrinking water supply. Ironically my tour date took place on one of the few overcast days this summer.

Reservoir capacity is already down by approximately 40% (early August) with months of dry, hot weather still to come. In the past water levels in these reservoirs have not dropped this low until just before the rainy season begins in late September or October.

Climate change adds a serious twist to this picture. Last winter (2014-15) there was no snow pack in the mountains above Vancouver to help replenish these reservoirs. If no snow is the new winter weather trend, Vancouver’s water-rich days are over.

Begonias no more

Like most water-guzzling Vancouverites, I have certainly indulged freely in this taken-for-granted resource. However the current stage three water restriction is a wakeup call. My personal water use habits are under new self-scrutiny. Things are going to change, including the annual floral display outside my store.

The begonias have been struggling this year in the heat and are clearly no longer an appropriate choice for adorning the outside of WaterMatters storefront. I’m contemplating what drought-resistant native plants might be a better choice for next year.

Getting perspective with a watershed tour

Erica coq tour guideI was impressed by the Coquitlam watershed tour which took me into otherwise inaccessible old growth forest just a short drive from urban life. There were about 10 of us on the tour who were transported on a small school bus to various locations of interest. The insightful tour guide, Erica, has an obvious passion for the natural world. She walked us through a forested area of salmon spawning creeks while explaining the intimate relationship between salmon, trees, wildlife and water. She outlined how Metro Vancouver applies this growing awareness to the stewardship of our watersheds.

We went on to see the reservoir itself and to walk around the quaint 1908coq res and intake tower cropped intake tower where water begins its journey from the reservoir to your tap. Then back on the bus to a higher viewpoint of the watershed and reservoir. On the way we stopped for a short walk into old growth forest. My hands tingled from contact with magnificent 800 year old giants.

ancient cedarThis tour was free. It simply involved booking in advance with Metro Vancouver. I highly recommend the experience for anyone living in the Greater Vancouver area. One comes away with a deeper appreciation for the local natural source of our water and the care that goes into delivering it to our taps. The unprecedented drop in the water line around the reservoir shoreline makes it clear why it is now time to rethink how each of us can use water more responsibly. The tours are offered from July through September. Tour details here.

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