March 1, 2004

Canada West Foundation analyzes barriers to water conservation in "Big 6" western cities

A new analysis by the Canada West Foundation cites a number of barriers to effective urban water conservation policy in six large western Canada's "Big Six" cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg. Drop by Drop; Urban Water Conservation Practices in Western Canada also offers eight recommendations to improve water conservation policy.

Report author Robert Roach, a senior policy analyst with the Foundation, lists three leading barriers to better water conservation in these urban centres. First, because water is generally seen as an abundant resource, there is a general lack of interest in conservation, as well as resistance to fee increases. Within governments, he adds, political leadership is lacking and water conservation is not a policy priority. Finally, water conservation policy threatens the revenues generated by the sale of municipal water services.

The analysis was prepared as part of Canada West Foundation's Urban Water Initiative, a component of the Foundation's multi-year Western Cities project. Begun in 2000, the project seeks, through research and public consultation, to define the policy challenges facing western Canada's largest cities and to determine best practices for dealing with these challenges.

Encouraging water conservation is a leading goal of the Urban Water Initiative and while it is concerned with the need for a holistic approach to water management on the part of all policy makers, it focuses particularly on cities. This reflects the fact that eight out often westerners live in cities and that municipal governments play a leading role in the treatment and delivery of water, which makes them critical pieces of the conservation puzzle, says the report.

Accordingly, most of its eight recommendations for improving water conservation policy are directed toward municipal governments, although a few target other levels, and partnerships and the forging of links are encouraged.

(1) Municipal governments should adopt and commit resources to large-scale, long-term water conservation strategies, rather than relying on a limited set of tools.

(2) Municipal governments should finance water utilities in ways that do not undermine the goals of water conservation.

(3) Municipal governments should allocate significant human resources to water conservation.

(4) Municipal governments that draw water from a common watershed should work together to develop region-wide conservation strategies.

(5) Governments should work to create links across policy areas; they should integrate policies that affect watersheds and encourage water conservation in all areas of government activity.

(6) Governments should form partnerships with other organizations to educate the public about water conservation.

(7) Governments should facilitate the use of new water conservation technology.

(8) Provincial governments should use urban water conservation as a basis and starting point for encouraging industrial and agricultural conservation.

The report may be viewed on the Canada West Foundation Web site, www.cwf.ca. More information is available from Gary Slywchuk at the Canada West Foundation, 403/264-9535, E-mail slywchuk@cwf.ca.

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