Is Calgary the Next Cape Town?

Posted on January 27, 2018

In the last few weeks, an ongoing struggle for our friends and neighbours in Cape Town, South Africa, has made international headlines.

They are out of fresh water. On or before April 12, 2018, the taps in residents’ homes and businesses will run dry.

This crisis is the result of a few critical factors:

  • Cape Town is experiencing its worst drought in more than a century
  • The Metro Population is 4 Million people, and it’s growing quickly
  • Rapidly changing climate

Listening to a radio program earlier this week, I learned that the average resident living under water restrictions is using 87 litres of water per day.

And then I looked online. I read media articles about “the wasteful residents of Cape Town.” I saw social media posts about incredible waste. I read some very, very unkind words.

After looking for more information about how much 87 litres really is, I remembered an important fact: Calgarians use an average of 7,000 litres of water per person, per month. That’s about 230 litres per day, or 2.7 times more than the average water use in Cape Town.

We have no right to admonish or judge the South Africans facing this crisis.

We need to support our neighbours, and learn from them.

While Cape Town struggles to find alternate sources of water – nearby mountain ranges, underground water sources, and even desalinization plants – Calgary is working to change our attitudes towards fresh water. Green Calgary has for 20 years lead the community rain barrel sales, which are returning this spring as the #GreenSeason event series. Our municipal government has brought in the Yard Smart program, and each home now has a water meter so that we can understand our water use. We have great partners in Calgary – other charities and community groups like CAWST, the Arusha Centre, and others – who work tirelessly to help Calgarians understand the value of water and our environment.

Canada has abundant resource, and we abuse our abundant resource. In 2013, the OECD admonished Canada in a report, stating that while we had made some improvements in household water usage, Canada remained among the top fresh water users per capita in the world. Only Americans use more fresh water.

As a global population – we can do better. We must do better. Water is not Cape Town’s problem; Water is everyone’s resource. It’s not optional if we are to sustain life, progress, innovation, and the communities that we have built and are building. So let’s have the important conversations, let’s review the science, and let’s all commit to working together to reduce how much fresh water we use.

What changes have you made to your life in order to save water? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Thanks for reading, be well,