TORONTO – With the announcement of a Water Opportunities Act in today’s Speech from the Throne, the Ontario government is setting the province on a path to become a global leader in water technology. At the same time, the environmental community is urging the government to include commitments to address Ontario’s own water use challenges.
“As Ontario looks to come out of this recession, water conservation can save taxpayers and municipalities hundreds of millions of dollars in avoided expansions, and focus efforts on fixing an aging sewage and water delivery system,” said Derek Stack, Executive Director of Great Lakes United. “By setting clear targets, Ontario will ensure an abundance of clean water for tomorrow and become a North American leader in water conservation technologies.”
Ontarians are among the most wasteful water users in the world. Understanding this, the groups are recommending several strategies to make Ontario a leader in water conservation:
Implement water efficiency standards;
Launch an efficiency labelling program for water fixtures;
Transform Ontario government facilities into model water conservation and efficiency buildings;
Link water conservation to infrastructure grants;
Appoint a Chief Water Conservation Officer;
Require water conservation plans for all Permit to Take Water holders; and,
Engage Ontarians with a message of water conservation.
“The province blazed a new energy path with the Green Energy Act. With today’s announcement Ontario has made it clear that solving our energy problems go hand-in-hand with addressing our water use problems,” said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association.
“Ignoring water conservation is flushing taxpayer dollars down the drain,” said Anastasia Lintner, Staff Lawyer with Ecojustice. “Municipalities spend extraordinary amounts of money pumping and treating water. When we use less water, municipalities use less energy, avoid infrastructure upgrades, and taxpayers save more money.”
For the Region of Peel, the annual cost of pumping and treating water in 2006 was estimated at $25 million. Meanwhile, the City of Toronto’s water division uses more electricity than the Toronto Transit Commission, and five times the energy consumed by all the city’s streetlights and traffic signals. In total, 550 million kWh are used every year by Toronto to treat its water.
At the same time, the province is facing a multi-billion dollar infrastructure debt. Already, $25 billion is needed over the next 15 years to repair and update existing water infrastructure. Through water conservation, the province can avoid spending on new, expensive, and energy-intensive pipes and pumps and focus on fixing what’s already in place.
This is not a new direction. For several years the government has been consulting with Ontario’s environmental community on a progressive conservation program. When Ontario put a stop to the potential for the export and diversion of Great Lakes water to the Southern U.S. and other parts of the world, it also committed to curbing its own wasteful water use. With this effort, Ontario can position itself to lead the world by example.
“We commend the Premier of Ontario for identifying the importance of conserving water. Investing in water efficiency and conservation today, will protect freshwater ecosystems, foster new innovative opportunities, and save energy – all at a fraction of the cost of expanding water infrastructure,” said Carol Maas, Innovation and Technology Director for the POLIS Water Sustainability Project.