Friday, January 25, 2008

Everybody vs. Alberta, Water Meters

Today Ed Stelmach, Premier of Alberta, released a climate change plan that would have Alberta STOP INCREASING its GHG emissions by 2020, and reduce them 14% of 2005 levels by 2050.

Lets compare this to some other jurisdictions.
- BC is set to reduce GHG emissions 33 percent below 2007 levels by 2020, 80 % below 2007 levels by 2050. Tonnes per person per year in 2004 - 15.9.
- Ontario is set to reduce GHG emissions to 15% below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Tonnes per person per year in 2004 - 16.4.
- Quebec is set to reduce GHG emissions to 1.5% below 1990 levels by 2012. Tonnes per person per year in 2004 - 12.2.
- Norway - GHG NEUTRAL ie zero emissions by 2030. Tonnes per person per year in 2005 - 8.

Alberta - raising emissions until 2020, 14% below 2005 by 2050. Tonnes per person per year in 2004 - 73.2.

Is this going to be a show down between Ottawa and Edmonton? Unlikely, our "environment" minister released a statement welcoming Alberta's plan. Don't forget, Stephen Harper's riding is Calgary Southwest.

Now to a Langley issue. The township of Langley is contemplating putting water meters on private wells. Though not a Federal matter, this is something that effects me directly as I am a user of well water. This is an issue I am torn on.

On the Say No to meter side. who is going to pay for the meters? The taxpayers of the Township, that's who. We already have seen large increases in property taxes over the past few years. Once a meter is in place, it is only a matter of time before the water is taxed. But what about the farms, the huge users of water? If we are trying to protect the aquifers, should not the largest users of water be controlled? They will be protected from water taxes by the right to farm legislation of the Province. I don't think putting meters on their wells will stop them from using whatever irrigation system is the cheapest, no matter how much water it wastes.

On the Say Yes to meter side. Our ground water is a shared resource, and as such it is subject to what is called the tragedy of the commons. If a shared resource has no cost to individual users, that resource will be squandered. It is seen time and time again in fisheries and water rights. Water mis-management is suspected to have caused the demise of the Mayan civilization. Langley's water table is shared and unmanaged. There is no cost to any individual for over use. There is another old adage that says " you can't manage what you don't measure." If we are to manage our water, it must be measured, and perhaps taxed at a level that makes us think twice about watering our lawns in the middle of the day. While the right to farm legislation in essence immunizes the farms, if the meters are in place the provincial politicians will have better information with which to change that legislation.

So I am torn on the issue. Water is a very important resource that must be protected, and that may mean metering. On the flip side, I really do not want a water meter on my well.

Please let me know what you think.



Anonymous said...

I think you have it all wrong when you classify agriculture as "big" water users. While they may pump a lot of water out of their wells where does that water go" A certain amount is used by plants and some evaporates. But the biggest amount goes back into the ground. It has been shown by the elevated nitrate levels in the aquafer that the water goes back into the aquafer. I live close by a turf farm. When they water they pour thousands of gallons of water on thier crop. Yet you NEVER see water running in the ajoining ditches as runnoff. So where does that water go?

So while the private well users see most of their water go back into the ground in one form or another WHERE does the water go that is used by those on the municipal water supply? It does down the drain into the sewer system where it is treated and goes into the Fraser River.

So Hill Time, while 20% of the population do not have private wells it would appear that they are responsible for the vast amount of NET water usage.


Jake Gray said...

I'm not sure what you are trying to say.

Are you saying agriculture is putting nitrates in the aquifer through runoff so farms water use should be more pro-actively managed?

Or are you saying that agriculture and private use ends up back in the aquifer so it doesn't need to be metered?

If you are saying that those on the municipal system are responsible for the lowering levels of the water table, I think you are mistaken, as the municipal water comes from the GVRD system.

All I know for sure is that with the amount of rain we get we should have no problems with water.

Anonymous said...

"If you are saying that those on the municipal system are responsible for the lowering levels of the water table, I think you are mistaken, as the municipal water comes from the GVRD system."

Actually, according to TOL data, only 50% of the water comes from GVRD water. The rest comes from TOL wells.

As for the nitrates,I used that example to re-enforce my argument that water sprayed onto fields finds its way back into the aquafers. In fact those who are on private wells also have septic systems so for the most part water that private well users pump eventually finds its way back into the aquafers. If I was my car the run-off goes back into the ground. On the other hand almost ALL the water used by those on the municipal water system eventually ends up in the Fraser River. So its pretty obvious who the "net" water users are.

As for your statement "All I know for sure is that with the amount of rain we get we should have no problems with water." I whole heartedly agree.


Hill Time said...


He was responding to a post by me on another blog. His cut’n’paste to your blog shows his laziness, as does his resistance to learning a bit about groundwater hydrology before he makes strange pseudo-scientific statements about groundwater flow.

On this issue, I would recommend that you (Jake) inform yourself by talking to people with some training in groundwater hydrology. The debate has already devolved to the point where there are factual errors on the “petition”, outright falsehoods reported in local papers, and the science of groundwater is ignored for the purposes of rhetoric. Don’t listen to H.T, to the blog-hosting councilors, the purveyors of petitions on this, but educate yourself about how aquifers work, how they can be managed, and how the tragedy of the Commons can be avoided.

One factual note I will add just to correct a mistake you made above: some of the municipal water comes from the GVRD, some is supplied by groundwater wells operated by the township. Apparently (and you might want to check this), I believe that the township does this to save money, as GVRD charges more for water than it costs the township to pump and treat it s own.

And to ask you, why don’t you want a meter on your well? Is it a fear of losing control of a resource you now feel you have control of? Remember, you don’t own that water, and if the province feels like it, it can end your access to it tomorrow, with or without a meter. It can tax you for access to it, with or without a meter.

reducing water usage said...

Critics in and outside the Alberta legislature were quick to criticize the government's new climate-change plan, unveiled Thursday, as too slow and too expensive.

Under the plan, a significant reduction in overall CO2 emissions won't be made until 2020, and emissions could rise before then.
Premier Ed Stelmach announced the target as part of a new environmental strategy that is expected to carry the government into an election, which could be called within weeks.

The Liberal environment critic, David Swann, said 12 years is too long to wait for any significant reductions.
The long-term goal of the climate-change plan announced Thursday morning is to reduce emissions to 14 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2050, an effective cut of 50 per cent if emissions continue to increase at their current rate, Stelmach said.