Did you know that overall water use in the Metro Vancouver region is nearly a billion litres a day? This use is projected to rise sharply as more people move into the region.
Increased water extraction and water demand places pressures on the environmental flow needs of fish and other aquatic organisms in urban watersheds, which can have devastating impacts. So what can we do in urban areas to mitigate the impacts of water use on salmon and other aquatic life?
This is the question explored in a recent report by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre (ELC) for Watershed Watch and the Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable. Reducing Water Extraction and Increasing Environmental Flows provides many recommendations for helping curb water demand, increasing flows, and improving the prospects for wild salmon in the lower Coquitlam River.
The City of Coquitlam currently charges a flat annual fee for water use, but the ELC report presents multiple case studies showing that water metering enables conservation-oriented pricing, assists with leak detection, and encourages consumer conservation—and that water conservation benefits quickly outweigh up-front costs.
Summer Water Restrictions
Enhanced automatic summer water restrictions provide further conservation benefits in the face of population growth.
The ELC report gives numerous examples of how green infrastructure (e.g. parks and greenways, low impact development, engineered wetlands, rooftop/rain gardens) helps reduce surface runoff rates to the benefit of the hydrological profile of the Coquitlam River. Green infrastructure can be incentivized through many means, including rebates on stormwater utility bills.
Water sustainability plans (WSP) are a tool under the provincial Water Sustainability Act that could help alleviate cumulative impacts from urbanization and population growth. The ELC recommends that developing an environmental flow needs regulation specific to the Coquitlam could be a major step to protecting the health of the Coquitlam River.
Populations of several species of salmon in the Coquitlam River have increased in recent years, thanks to increased flows gained through negotiations with BC Hydro. It would be beyond sad to see wild salmon suffer again from increased water demand and extraction, when the ELC report gives us insight and tools to help maintain a healthy watershed.
Take Action Today
The insights and recommendations of the ELC report would benefit not just the Coquitlam River, but other urban watersheds as well; however, implementation needs political support. Please write to your local municipal and provincial politicians and ask them to commit to the actions identified in the ELC report.