Water Conservation: A Call For Collective Action
Water conservation is an increasingly pressing issue in many parts of the world and London, Ontario is no exception. The city faces a range of water-related challenges including dwindling water supplies, aging infrastructure, and the ongoing impacts of climate change. These issues pose serious risks to the long-term health and sustainability of the region as well as to the economic and social wellbeing of its residents.
One of the key issues facing London is the depletion of its groundwater resources. The region relies heavily on groundwater as a source of drinking water but overuse and contamination have put a strain on these resources.
The Thames Region Ecological Association have addressed this issue by mentioning how water-taking permits in southwestern Ontario were issued without an understanding of the quantity or quality of water being extracted and without appropriate monitoring. This has led to groundwater depletion and contamination, which can have serious environmental and health impacts. For example, high levels of nitrates in groundwater can lead to the growth of harmful algae blooms in surface water bodies which can harm aquatic life and pose a risk to human health.
According to a report by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, groundwater is being overused in some areas of the province, including parts of southern Ontario, leading to declining water levels, reduced water quality and the potential for increased risk to human health and the environment.
In addition, climate change is exacerbating water scarcity by altering precipitation patterns and increasing the frequency of droughts and other extreme weather events. In fact, one of the most significant consequences of climate change in London is the impact on the city’s water supply. As mentioned, the city relies heavily on groundwater which is being depleted at an alarming rate. As a result, the city has been forced to draw water from other sources, such as Lake Erie, which is causing further environmental degradation.
The consequences of these issues are wide-ranging and potentially severe for one the city’s ability to provide clean and safe drinking water to its residents. This could lead to public health concerns and increased rates of illness and disease. In addition to these strategies, it is also important to consider the social and economic implications of water conservation in London. For example, efforts to reduce water use could potentially lead to job losses in industries that rely heavily on water, such as agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. It is important to carefully consider these implications and ensure that any conservation efforts are implemented in a way that is equitable and socially just.
Currently, a number of efforts are underway to address these challenges. For example, the city is investing in infrastructure upgrades and repairs to ensure that its water delivery systems are functioning efficiently and effectively. The city has also implemented a range of water conservation programs, such as offering rebates for water-efficient appliances and fixtures, and encouraging residents to reduce their water use through education and outreach initiatives.
Furthermore, it is important to consider the broader environmental implications of water conservation in London. For example, reducing water usage could not only decrease the city’s greenhouse gas emissions but also promote sustainable water practices. This, in turn, helps protect the city’s ecosystems and biodiversity by reducing pollution and safeguarding aquatic habitats. These efforts would directly contribute to SDG6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), SDG12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), and SDG13 (Climate Action).
One potential approach to water conservation is the implementation of a “water budget”. This system would assign each household and business a water budget, which would be based on factors such as the size of the property, the number of occupants and the local climate. The water budget would set a limit on the amount of water that each household or business could use and if they exceeded their budget they would be charged a higher rate for any additional water use.
As one of the largest and most influential institutions, I believe Western University has the potential to be a leader in water conservation efforts in London. Implementing sustainable water practices on campus involves promoting water conservation education through workshops, seminars, and educational materials aimed at students, faculty, and staff. This initiative encompasses providing information on reducing water consumption in daily activities and emphasizes the environmental significance of water conservation. Another approach is the implementation of water-efficient infrastructure, achieved by retrofitting buildings with fixtures and appliances designed for reduced water consumption. This could include low-flow toilets, shower heads and faucets as well as rainwater harvesting systems and water reuse systems.
Furthermore by collaborating with the community and the city, Western can make a significant contribution to ensuring the sustainable use of our water resources for generations to come.
Another potential approach to water conservation is the implementation of a “blue roof” system. This system involves retrofitting existing roofs with storage tanks and other technologies that allow them to capture and store rainwater. The harvested rainwater can be utilized for non-potable purposes, such as watering lawns and gardens or flushing toilets. This practice offers several advantages, including reducing the amount of stormwater runoff entering the city’s water supply and decreasing the demand for potable water in non-potable applications.
Even though these approaches can make significant impacts, it is important to recognize that water conservation in London requires a collective effort. It is not enough for individuals or businesses to make changes on their own; we need to work together to implement sustainable water practices across the city.
In conclusion, water conservation is a critical issue for London with wide-ranging implications for public health, economic development and environmental sustainability. While the city has made progress in addressing these challenges, there is still much that can be done to ensure a sustainable and resilient water future for the region. By investing in more sustainable infrastructure, promoting conservation efforts and carefully considering the social and economic implications of these actions, the city can help to protect its residents, its environment and its future.
Agarwal, Vivek, Amit Kumar, Rachel L. Gomes, and Stuart Marsh. “Monitoring of Ground Movement and Groundwater Changes in London Using Insar and Grace.” MDPI. Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, December 1, 2020. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3417/10/23/8599.
“Thames Region Ecological Association.” Accessed February 20, 2023. https://www.londonenvironment.net/thames_region_ecological_association_member.
“Blue Roofs.” Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program (STEP). Accessed February 20, 2023. https://sustainabletechnologies.ca/home/urban-runoff-green-infrastructure/low-impact-development/blue-roofs/.
“Water and Wastewater & Treatment .” Introduction to the Water and Wastewater & Treatment 2020-2023 Multi-Year Budget, March 2, 2020. https://london.ca/sites/default/files/2020-11/2020-2023%20Water%20and%20Wastewater%20Budget%20as%20of%20October%2020.ah%20FINALOct30JMCL.pdf.
ontario.ca. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://www.ontario.ca/page/ministry-environment-conservation-parks.
This blog post series is an ongoing partnership between the SDG Cities program at Pillar Nonprofit Network and the Environmental Stewardship course in the Governance, Leadership, and Ethics program at Huron University. As part of their assignments, students are required to write about real-world challenges using the UN Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) as a holistic framework to analyse the problem and propose solutions that could lead to systemic change and a better future for all. The series presents an opportunity for students to address practical and meaningful challenges that their communities are facing currently, and an opportunity for SDG Cities to enrich their program by including youth perspectives.
All opinions expressed by the guest authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the SDG Cities program or Pillar Nonprofit Network.