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Given that approximately 70% of the human body is comprised of water, it is not surprising that water is an important component of our daily lives. Although the vast majority of our planet is covered in water, only a fraction of this resource is accessible for the purposes of human consumption. It is pertinent that we use our freshwater resources wisely to ensure that the planet can meet the needs of the global population estimated to be over 7,000,000,000 currently.
Water conservation is an issue that requires immediate action and there are many small things you can do in your daily life to help make a large difference.
Avoid running the tap
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the average tap runs 2 gallons (7.6 L) per minute. If you leave the tap running while you brush your teeth for 2 minutes twice a day, you could be wasting up to 30.4 L per day. Simply turn off the tap while you are brushing your teeth or washing dishes and you will be saving water and money!
Routinely check for leaks
When a leak has been discovered, repair it as quickly as possible. A leaky tap or toilet can cost you a lot of money in the long term. National Geographic estimates that 14% of the average North American’s daily indoor water use is lost due to leaks.
Xeriscaping involves landscaping a garden with water conservation in mind. Xeriscapes use native and drought resistant plants so a garden can be relatively self-sustaining and requires limited watering. Visit the City of Edmonton’s website for a list of trees, shrubs and perennials that fare well in Parkland County’s climate.
Use a Cistern or Rain Barrel
According to Environment Canada, 50% of all municipally-treated water is used to water lawns and gardens every year. Lawns and gardens do not require potable water – water that has been treated for human consumption. Using a cistern or rain barrel to collect rain water is an easy way to reduce your demand on municipal water. Once a sufficient amount of water has been collected you can use it to water plants, wash your car or any other task that does not require the use of potable water. Also, try watering your lawn in the early morning or late evening when the air is cooler to reduce evaporation.
Purchase low-flow appliances and fixtures
Many older appliances and fixtures use water inefficiently. In one flush, a standard toilet can use up to 18 L of potable water. An ultra-low flush toilet however, can use as little as 6 L per flush (City of London, Water Conservation House). By limiting the amount of water used by your appliances and faucets you can significantly lessen your overall household water use.
If you are interested in calculating how much water you use annually head to Facebook and check out Siemens’ Personal Water Footprint Calculator. This tool will compare your water consumption to national averages and the results of friends who have used the calculator.
Organic Fertilizers and Pesticides
In Parkland County, many of our lakes have been affected by eutrophication. Eutrophication occurs when large amounts of phosphates and nitrates enter into a water system resulting in cyanobacterial blooms due to increased levels of nutrients. When significant cyanobacterial blooms take place, hypoxia, a decrease in oxygen, occurs in the water and this poses serious threats to the plant and animal life living within the ecosystem. Much of the eutrophication seen in Parkland County can be attributed to the runoff of synthetic fertilizers. Switching to organic fertilizers is one solution to reducing eutrophication in Parkland County. Click HERE to access a fact sheet on cyanobacterial blooms provided by the Government of Alberta.
Fertilizers provide plants with three essential nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Although synthetic fertilizers are capable of providing a plant with these nutrients, organic fertilizers offer unrivalled benefits to the environment, and people.
For starters, a synthetic fertilizer is designed in such a way that the nutrients it contains are ready to be used by the plant the moment it enters the soil. Although at first glance this may appear to be a positive note, synthetic fertilizers run the risk of providing a plant with too many nutrients at one time which is hazardous to the health of the plant.
In contrast, organic fertilizers must be broken down by microbes in the soil before a plant can absorb the nutrients it contains resulting in a slow and manageable release of nutrients.
Organic fertilizers are composed of natural ingredients, and are able to provide long term benefits to the environment. Organic fertilizers are apt to improve soil structure and ecosystems do not run the risk of chemical contamination due to their use.
Lastly, synthetic fertilizers are potentially hazardous to human and animal health. Organic fertilizers, on the other hand, provide safe green space for children and pets to experience the outdoors.
To learn more about water in Alberta and to discover what challenges our water resources face, check out the Government of Alberta’s “Facts About Water in Alberta” booklet.
Examples of Organic Fertilizers
|Blood Meal||Excellent source of nitrogen||
|Bone Meal||Excellent source of phosphorous||
|Compost||Good all-round source of all three essential nutrients||
|Fish Fertilizers (liquid)||Good source of micronutrients||
|Kelp Meal||Good source of micronutrients||
|Manure||Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium content varies depending on type; excellent soil conditioner||
(Above adapted from Toronto Master Gardeners, Reducing Pesticides - it's Perfectly Natural)
Synthetic pesticides also run the risk of contaminating water systems. Insects can be a nuisance in the garden. Although it may be tempting to use synthetic pesticides to eradicate these pests there are a few alternatives available that provide similar outcomes while reducing environmental impacts.
Try companion planting! Companion planting involves paring certain plants together to discourage pests from approaching. Did you know that planting tomatoes alongside marigolds will deter some insects? Alternatively, you can also pair plants that will encourage useful insects such as pollinators to visit your garden. Click here for some more examples of companion plants.
If you are still determined to use pesticides to protect your plants, try organic. Click here for a list of organic pesticides that you can use at home.
For more information, please contact Parkland County’s Sustainability Services at 780-968–8888 ext. 8261 or ext. 8270