What is World Water Day All About?

Posted on March 21, 2023

Today is World Water Day! A Global Day of Awareness to reflect on both the beauty and power of water and on the importance of clean, safe water access to people all over the world. There is still a lot of work to be done making that access equal worldwide, including securing access to clean drinking water for thousands of Canadians, mostly living on reserves. While some of us are able to enjoy water as a symbol of play and recreation, others struggle with it as a basic need. And though our goal is not to make anyone feel hopeless, it is important to be aware that the relationship one has with water is not universal. It is through collective consciousness that we engage in collective action.  

As a local charity, our expertise lies in answering what we can do to actively care for our local watershed. Calgary is located in the driest part of Alberta, which is the driest province in Canada. Seventy percent of the province’s water is in the northern part of the province, while 70% of the usage is in the southern part. We are also prone to flood and drought conditions over the spring and summer months. Snow melt from the Rocky Mountains is the largest contributor to the flow of water in the rivers, followed by rainfall, and then groundwater. By mid to late summer the rivers are more dependent on rainfall and groundwater, which fluctuate year over year. When snowfall in both the mountains and locally is minimal over the winter or rain is low in the summer, water availability is greatly affected. To add to the complexity of Calgary’s place in all this, we are the first large city to access this glacial water as it runs down from the headwaters. After us, it still has a long way to go, and many communities to support, before emptying into Hudson Bay.  

We all need water. It’s life sustaining, supports our gardens, and is fun. So how do we balance water use with protecting the watershed we live within? Eliminating unnecessary potable water use for non-potable reasons is an accessible way to make a difference. Rain barrels can greatly reduce the amount of potable water that is pulled from the river and used for things like flower beds, trees, bushes, and indoor plants over the summer. Capturing rainwater and then using it during times of low rain activity means less stress on the river and the water treatment plants in times of drought. We understand that in severe drought the rainwater will be used up before the barrel fills again, and you will have to go back to the hose, but the water saved, house by house, is significant to the collective of cities and towns that rely on the same river flow for their needs and wants, too. One way to ensure your rainwater goes further is to also plant drought resistant gardens. Many native plants are also drought resistant and can go anywhere from a week to almost a month without rain (just walk through one of the native plant preserves in the city after weeks of no rain and watch it still thrive). The root systems of many native plants are deep, meaning they don’t rely on surface water to sustain them. An added bonus to a native flower bed is that the native pollinators are also happy. 

Other small actions can add up, both within your home and collectively when everyone participates. You’ve probably heard one of these before, but they are great reminders: Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth, install low flow showerheads and toilets, and only do laundry when you have a full load. Check for leaks, especially in the toilet where it can be easily missed, and make small repairs. This not only saves water but can prevent a larger problem down the road. Place a bowl in your kitchen sink and capture the water that would otherwise go down the drain when washing your hands, rinsing off fruits and vegetables, pouring out after cooking something in a pot, or letting the tap run for hot or cold water and use that water for indoor plants. The City of Calgary's website has more tips for saving water. Check them out!

We know it can be hard to see the need for all these water saving measures in a city that seems to have a never-ending water supply, but this is a misconception. Collective action is the key to creating a sustainable community, so share your water saving ideas with friends and family and be an example to your neighbours. The more citizens participating in active water conservation the healthier our watershed and aquatic systems will be. Happy World Water Day!


P.S. If you're looking to add a rain barrel to your garden, Green Calgary's barrels go on sale April 1st at shop.greencalgary.org.