Managing Metro Vancouver’s water supply as global temperatures rise

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says global warming will affect everything from extreme weather to the water we drink in Vancouver. Kier Junos reports.

The Capilano watershed provides a third of all the drinking water to Metro Vancouver, and by the 2030s, the regional authority expects it will need more water storage to avoid seasonal supply shortages.

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The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released Monday, says global warming will effect everything from extreme weather to the water we drink.

“The representation of the science is becoming more and more clear about how humans are causing climate change… [and] we have a very limited window left to bring about massive change in how we interact with nature,” said UBC environment and sustainability professor Kai Chan.

There are some things people can do to fight climate change, like reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, or adapting when water gets scarcer.

At the Coquitlam reservoir, Metro Vancouver is planning to add more water capacity to match the demand of a growing population.

“The Coquitlam second intake is the first upgrade that’s been planned for late 2030s, and once that’s done, that should give us enough water for the region for the next 50 years. So towards the end of the century — that’s when we plan for the next increment,” said Aby Sharma, a program manager at Metro Vancouver Water Services.

Sharma says the region uses about 390 billion litres of water per year, and by the end of the century, that could be closer to 600 billion litres.

“The IPCC report that came out, it underlines the importance that every one of us have to step forward and make some changes to our habits so that we ensure we have a clean, safe drinking water for the region in the future,” he says.

Changing our habits — which includes taking shorter showers, watering the lawn less, and using more efficient appliances — may help with preserving water, Chan says, though reducing greenhouse gas emissions is more complex.

“It’s great when folks do things that try to reduce their carbon footprints, etc. But the reality is that there is only so much power we have in that respect. Now, the remainder of the responsibility of the power is in the hands of governments and of corporations.”

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