Where does our water come from?
The Earth is a closed system, so, amazingly, the amount of water on Earth never changes, though its form and location move around.
Water builds up as condensation in the clouds causing precipitation and eventually rain. Rain falls onto the land and what doesn’t get absorbed by our soil and plants runs off into our rivers, aquifers and oceans. The heat from the sun makes the plants transpire and waterways evaporate filling the clouds with condensation again.
How are we using our water?
Plants, humans and animals all use our water. In BC there are currently about 44,000 water licences authorizing the diversion, use, and storage of water. These uses range from agriculture, aquaculture, industrial and commercial, mining, water power to domestic use. Water is also allocated for conservation and land improvement.
In BC we consume an average of 490 litres per day, while the average Canadian uses 330 litres a day. This includes the water we use for drinking, showering, and washing our clothes and dishes.
Water is also consumed by plants and animals. During the summer a mature pine tree consumes about 20 litres a day. Beef cattle need about 45 litres per day and dairy cattle need about 135 litres per day.
The amounts of water humans, plants and animals use increases by one and a half to two times on a hot day.
What sources of water are we using?
Water is sourced from both underground and surface water systems for these uses. In BC there are more than 291,000 unique watersheds. Our largest river is the Fraser, which runs 1 368 kms from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean. Our largest lake is Wiliston Lake (reservoir) in BC’s Peace River region.
Despite all the rivers and lakes in British Columbia 750,000 residents get their drinking water from ground water. Ground water comes from aquifers, large deposits of water underground. Ground water sometimes rises or can as a result of gravity be fed into springs, streams or wells. Pumps and a variety of drilling techniques can be used to feed ground water into wells.
Treatment plants work to make our drinking water safe and limit the impact of our waste water on the environment.
Water for BC: Safe, Sustainable and Valued by all
BC’s water system is complex, and our needs and values are shifting. Over the next 25 years the population of B.C. is expected to grow by 1.4 million people and our climate is changing.
The challenges in the 21st century are very different to those of last century. Already, about 5000 water sources in BC have identified water shortages and restrictions.
Living Water Smart looks at ways we can improve the way we use water and through Water Act Modernization Government we will be examining how our water sources are managed and protected for human, plant and animal use.
Do you know where your water comes from? Are you using surface water or ground water? How much water do you use a day? Have you noticed changes to your watershed? How can we best address the needs of the future?