Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Why Save Water In Water-Rich Canada?

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 18 May 2004 00:00

The City of Kamloops is one of many Canadian municipalities intent on helping its residents save themselves tax money while they conserve water.

Semi-arid Kamloops is situated in south central British Columbia, at the confluence of the North and South Thompson Rivers. Hot, dry summers push water demand up four to five times over winter usage.

The problem in Kamloops is that pumps are necessary to deliver water to residents. High-demand days challenge pumping facilities. As the population grows, it could become difficult and -- with rising energy costs -- expensive to meet high summer demands. Concerns about water availability are common to many growing Canadian communities.

To alleviate this problem in Kamloops, the WaterSmart Program was introduced. By promoting water conservation, average consumption during peak summer months has been reduced by as much as 21 per cent. Today, the Kamloops WaterSmart Program is a provincial leader in the non-metering approach to water use efficiency. The conservation of water will save residents the expense of upgrading pumps and may reduce upgrading costs for the current water treatment system.

Federal agencies like Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Environment Canada join a variety of provincial organizations in encouraging Canadians to use less water every day instead of just cutting back when water shortages occur.

One valuable conservation strategy is the use of xeriscape landscaping. This gardening approach sustains an attractive and functional landscape using less maintenance and less watering. "Xeriscape" means "water conservation through creative landscaping" so water requirements are kept to natural precipitation levels, rather than relying heavily on irrigation. Xeriscape water consumption can be 50 per cent or less of the amount necessary to maintain an equivalent traditional landscape. Xeriscape is not the same as zeroscape, which uses no landscaping at all or is limited to gravel and rock.

The added benefit of xeriscaping is that less maintenance is required -- less fertilizing, less pruning, less weeding and less mowing. This leaves more time for summer fun.

Xeriscaping is based on seven interrelated principles that can easily be adapted to any type of garden, park or grounds in both rural and urban areas. The degree to which principles are applied varies with gardeners, property features and local plant availability.

  1. Planning and Design

    A successful xeriscape requires a well thought out water-use plan which incorporates the problems and potential unique to a specific property. The design should group low-water-use plants in one area and arrange high-water-use vegetation together.

  2. Soil Improvement

    Soil conditions are critical to the success of a xeriscape. Soil must provide support, air, water and nutrients to the plants or they will be weakened. Texture, organic content, pH, drainage, salinity and fertility are the important characteristics of soil that should be considered before planting anything. The City of Toronto offers residents water-conservation tips for soil improvement which include using sand to increase drainage, adding peat moss, manure or compost to improve moisture retention, and applying fertilizer carefully to promote strong root growth.

  3. Appropriate Plant Selection

    Plants must suit the climatic and microclimate conditions, intended function, soil characteristics and the intended water use at the planting site. Look for drought-resistant trees, shrubs, perennials, ground cover, grasses and vines and grow them under various types of mulches. Perennials generally demand less water, fertilizer and pesticide than annuals. In Kamloops's desert climate, gardeners can use native plants, shrubs and trees. In your area, local greenhouses and landscapers know which plants fit the xeriscape model.

  4. Practical Turf Areas

    Conserve significant amounts of water by reducing the size of the lawn. Consider switching to drought-tolerant turf grasses. Eliminate grass in narrow strips and unusable areas by planting shrubs or ground cover.

  5. Efficient Irrigation

    Efficient irrigation means applying the amount of water that is required by a plant, when it is required, where it is required and with minimal wastage. Watering at the same frequency in April as in July is not efficient. Usually watering once a week, is sufficient, even for grass, if the water is applied to the depth of the root zone.

    The Xeriscape Demonstration Project overseen by the Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification Centre also demonstrates the feasibility of xerigation, a technique designed to increase water use efficiency by using a low volume, high efficiency irrigation system. This xerigation system is capable of applying water in varying flow rates in the form of mists, sprays, drips, or streams, all on the same water line.

  6. Mulches

    Mulches are applied to the soil surface to reduce evaporation and to lower plant use by moderating soil temperature. A landscape fabric, which controls weed growth while permitting water movement, is placed on the soil surface before laying down the mulches and rocks. Wood fibre, red shale aggregate, and redwood fibre are used as mulches.

  7. Appropriate Maintenance

    Overwatering contributes to rapid, weak plant growth, fertilizer leaching, insect/disease problems and weed growth, all of which require maintenance. If water is efficiently applied in a garden, and Xeriscape principles are used, less maintenance will be required.

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