Canada is blessed with one fifth of the world’s fresh water. Few populated areas suffer a lack of water supply. Perhaps it is why the country as a whole is somewhat complacent about personal levels of water consumption.
Not only is fresh water abundant in Canada, it is also incredibly inexpensive. In cities like Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver, which charge according to metered use, the cost is less than $0.005 per litre.
Montreal and Ottawa don’t even bother to meter water and sewage use. They charge a flat rate. In effect, that means those who are prudent in their use of water actually pay more per gallon than someone who leaves their taps running.
On a per person basis, Canadian households consume anywhere from one-third to two-thirds more water than those in European countries without such easy and inexpensive access. One simple explanation may be cost. Homeowners in countries like Denmark pay 1.5 times more per litre for their water than most Canadians.
No one is promoting the idea of wasting water these days, quite the opposite in fact. But what are the incentives for project owners and builders to be sensible about water consumption in a country with so much available at minimal cost?
There are two important motivators, says Paul Roque, leader of high rise project sales for LIXIL Canada.
“In some cases, builders and developers are mandated towards water efficiency by local bylaws and regulations,” he told the Daily Commercial News. “The other influencer is perception, particularly as a result of programs such as LEED, which favours improved water management and controlled usage.”
Offering a commercial or residential project to potential purchasers and occupants that is environmentally sound is important today. Ignoring the growing and informed public sentiment towards the sensible use of resources, be it energy or water, is simply not a successful marketing strategy.
When it comes to residential water use, studies suggest bathroom devices consume 60 per cent of all water consumed in a home. Half of that comes from flushing the toilet, followed closely by personal showers. Therefore, any efforts directed towards controlling water consumption needs to confront this reality.
There are standards setting out maximum water flows permitted for plumbing devices in Canada. The 2015 National Plumbing Code (NPC) sets a maximum water flow for toilets, showerheads and bathroom faucets of 8.3 l/m, 9.5 l/m and 10 l/m respectively. Ontario and some other provinces mandate water flows 20 to 35 per cent lower.
Codes set a fairly low bar. However, water management can be greatly improved by specifying water devices that carry the WaterSense label, a performance standard developed in the United States that is also offered on products in Canada by leading North American manufacturers like LIXIL.
The WaterSense standard combines efficient water flow with factors that account for value-for-money.
“It’s a combination of flow rate and of the cost of the product,” explains Roque. “It has to make sense all together.”
WaterSense devices for toilets, showerheads and faucets use anywhere from 35 to 40 per cent less water than Canada’s NPC maximums. WaterSense devices under LIXIL brand names like Grohe claim to reduce household bathroom water consumption by nearly 110,000 litres a year. For occupants or owners who pay for metered water and sewage, that’s a potential savings of several hundred dollars.
Roque emphasizes to his project customers that public perception is perhaps even more important than water cost savings or any small premium paid for more efficient devices.
“You have to consider the end-user. The customer has to be happy with the end result.”
That means specifying quality devices that are not wasteful.
More than that, Roque speaks to the overall responsibility Canadians have towards resource sustainability in order to maintain level of credibility.
“We are trying to be green. And when it comes to water consumption, Canada doesn’t necessarily have to. But it is a collective responsibility. It’s a matter of being a responsible example to others.”
John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont.-based freelance writer. Send comments and Inside Innovation column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.