197 2nd Ave North
Williams Lake, B.C.
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Water Wise, a project of the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society, aims to educate and empower Williams Lake and area to conserve water and become conscious of wastewater issues. The project was initiated in 2006 with support provided by Eco Action Canada, and contributions from local groups and individuals, Community Futures Development Corporation of the Cariboo Chilcotin, Endswell Fund, the Vancouver Foundation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, Gavin Lake Forest Education Society and the City of Williams Lake. In 2007 The City of Williams Lake formed a partnership with the CCCS and provided funding to keep the local Water Wise Project active within the City.
Water Wise works within schools, and within the community to educate, and encourage water conservation and preserving watershed health.
Instructors teach our Water Wiseeducation modules in the classroom within our local school districts, and at Gavin Lake Forest Education Centre. There are also hands on activities for students that include field trips to the river valley and the sewage treatment plant, as well as annual storm drain painting and student art displays.
In the community we spread the Water Wise message with radio ads, public service announcements on television, newspaper ads and articles, distributing educational materials (brochures, bookmarks featuring children's artwork), community displays, signage and posters, workshops and presentations, campaigns (e.g. dental clinic, hotels, bottled water, restaurant) as well as visiting individual establishments for consultations, and the placement of tap/mirror reminder stickers at busy public locations.
Using “green” or “biodegradable” soaps, shampoos, laundry and dish detergents and cleaning products reduce the number of harmful chemicals that you are sending down the drain and introducing to the environment. Choose products that are phosphate-free (causes harmful algal blooms), bleach-free (a lung irritant), petroleum-free (oil is not necessary for cleaning) and biodegradable. If a product is covered in warnings, steer clear.
Most every store has a line of “alternative” products that you can choose from. Or make your own home cleaning and laundry products using basics such as baking soda, vinegar and Borax. Google “natural, non-toxic cleaning products” for ideas.
Tap to Bottle
If you are out for a walk or shopping and run out of water, rather than buying a bottle of water, look for business windows that display a Tap to Bottle sticker. You can take your reusable water bottle into a participating business and refill your water bottle with water. Tap to Bottle is a network of businesses in our community that are willing to provide access to water and welcome community members to come in and refill their reusable water bottles (no additional purchases are expected). Keep an eye out for the Tap to Bottle sticker on display in the front window or door of local businesses. Contact the Conservation Society if your office or business would like to join the Tap to Bottle campaign.
Golden Lawns Campaign
Residents are encouraged to let their lawns go “golden” and “natural.” The lawns are “green” when Mother Nature waters them, “golden” when the weather gets hot and dry. They are also herbicide and pesticide free. Natural lawns protect our rivers and streams from pollution and protect the City’s groundwater aquifer by conserving precious drinking water. The Conservation Society has creative signs painted by local children that can be posted on your “golden lawn” to encourage neighbours and friends to do the same.
Golden lawns signs painted by Brownies and Guides
Down the Drain: Storm Drain Sandwich Boards
Art with a message. Watch for sandwich boards with an artistic touch around the community. Local elementary and high school students have created colourful depictions of “life at the end of a storm drain.” The art reminds residents that that what flows down a storm drain ends up in our rivers and streams and that “only rain should go down the drain.” Garbage, pet waste, chemicals, oil and other pollutants do not belong in storm drains. Remember, if you wouldn’t want to swim in or drink it, neither would the fish and wildlife.
Storm drain signs display art by local students.
Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth, shave, wash your hands and wash dishes.
Displace water in your toilet tank with a pickle jar, bottle or anything else that takes up room (except a brick which will disintegrate over time) so that every time you flush it uses that much less water.
Fix leaks promptly (taps, hoses, toilets). Most leaking toilets can be fixed by just cleaning, or installing a new flapper valve for under $10 dollars. Check toilets for leaks by placing a few drops of food colouring in the tank (do not flush), wait 15 minutes, then check again… if you see colour in the bowl, you have a leak.
Only flush your toilet when necessary, don't use your toilet as a garbage can.
Don't flush unused prescription medications, paint, toxic chemicals or anything else down your toilet.
Use biodegradable "green" cleaning products, or make your own, using household materials such as baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice.
Keep your showers to five minutes or less and run only full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine.
When updating your home with new washing machines, dishwashers, toilets and showerheads, choose water-efficient (and energy-efficient) models.
Carry re-usable drink containers with you (coffee mug, water bottle). Not only is this healthier for you (toxins are found in plastic bottles), but it is also cheaper, produces less waste and saves the water it takes to make disposable drink containers in the first place.
Keep a bottle or jug of water in your fridge for cold water - don't run your taps for it.
Use a broom to clean up outdoors. Using a hose to clean up outdoors washes dirt and harmful chemicals down storm drains and back into our watershed. Hosing also wastes clean fresh drinking water that all species need to survive. Instead use a broom, bag the waste, and dispose of it in a garbage can.
Use a timer and only water your lawn for 30 minutes twice a week (lawns in our area rarely require more water)… or “go golden” and let your grass go dormant during hot spells (it will “brown” but not die).
Choose drought-hardy plants, and replace excess grass with “hard-scapes” such as rocks, gravel and/or decorative stones.
Note: City Counselor Jon Wolbers has said that during our hot dry summers he followed the tips, reduced his water usage, and his lawn still looks great!
Set up rain barrels to water your indoor and outdoor plants. Your plants will thank you because rainwater is oxygen-filled, neutral in ph, free of salts, minerals and chlorine.
Choose child- and pet-friendly fertilizers such as alfalfa pellets (yes, rabbit food) and leaving grass clippings on.
Refrain from using pesticides, and, if you must, choose a day and time that is not windy.
Dispose of toxins such as paint, oil and gas properly rather than pouring them down storm drains that often lead to fish-bearing streams.
Wash your car on the grass or other permeable surface and use a sponge and a bucket, not a running hose.
Make sure you always have a nozzle on the end of your hose and be careful not to water driveways, sidewalks, and the street.
Don't use sprinklers as toys and water early in the mornings or in the evenings if possible (between 10pm – 10 am). OBEY City water restrictions! To reach Bylaw Enforcement, call the City of Williams Lake at 250-392-2311.
Drive less, walk, bike or carpool to reduce urban runoff which water picks up toxins from the road, roofs and sidewalks and washes them down storm drains.
Setup a grey-water system that re-uses water for flushing toilets and other activities that do not require “drinking water” quality.
A person can live weeks without food, but only days without water. A quarter of the world's population is without safe drinking water, and at least 400 million people live in regions with severe water shortages.
A watershed is an area of land that drains down slope… eventually arriving at the ocean. It is made up of the land, and the water you can see (such as rivers and lakes) as well as the water we don’t see flowing underground. 99% of what happens to a river or lake happens first on the land.
Groundwater can take a human lifetime to travel only one mile. Four litres of gasoline can contaminate approximately 2.8 million litres of water. Groundwater supplies serve about 80% of the population, and up to 4% of usable groundwater is already polluted. Experts claim that if all new sources of contamination could be eliminated, in ten years, 98% of all available groundwater would be pollution free.
In 24 hours, a dripping faucet can waste from 10 to 75 litres of water. A slow toilet leak can waste 1,800 litres a day per toilet (that's 450 four-litre milk jugs full). Check toilets for leaks by placing a few drops of food colouring in the tank (do not flush), wait 15 minutes, then check the toilet bowl for colour. If you see colour in the bowl, you have a leak.
About 450 cubic kilometres of wastewater are carried into coastal areas by rivers and streams every year. These pollution loads require an additional 6,000 cubic kilometres of freshwater to dilute the pollution. This amount equals two-thirds of the world's total stable run-off.
Rain gardens are natural filters that absorb rainwater running off roofs, driveways and sidewalks, to keep water in our watersheds. Contact Water Wise for information on rain gardens.
About 25,700 litres of water is required to grow a day's food for a family of four (equal to 6,425 four-litre milk jugs full). Did you know it takes 16,000 litres to produce one kg of beef, 600 litres for one loaf of bread, and 480 litres to produce one egg.
Displacing just one litre of water will save over 1,000 litres a year (if you flush only three times a day!)… that's 250 four-litre milk jugs full.
Lawns get saturated very quickly… they can only absorb 2.5 cm of water at one time. Step on your grass and, if you leave footprints, it's time to water. Place a tuna can on your lawn and water until it is full. Over-watering only leads to shallow root growth.
Rabbit feed pellets (alfalfa) are an environmentally safe and pet-friendly fertilizer; and washing your car on the lawn waters your grass, and naturally filters the dirty run-off.
Everything we put on the ground and into the air becomes part of the water we use. Out of every 18 litres of water on the Earth, only three teaspoons is available for us to use. Water regulates the Earth's temperature, and the temperature of the human body… and did you know the human brain, trees, and chickens are all made up of 75% water!
In half of the world's households, people (usually women and children) must spend up to five hours a day collecting water, often walking 6-8 km to the water source… and two out of every five people in the world will never experience a clean glass of water in their lifetime.
The average Canadian uses twice as much water as the average European and sixty times as much as the average African. By installing water-wise faucets, shower heads, and retrofitting your old toilet, you can cut your household water consumption by 35-40%
Xeriscape gardening is gardening that uses very little water or fertilizers. There are many different plants and techniques to the art of xeriscape.
One centimetre of rain falling on an 1,100 square foot roof can collect 1,145 litres of water. With four gutter outflows on each roof, one rain barrel can collect approximately 258 litres of water from only one centimetre of rain.
Bottled water uses 1,500,000 tons of plastic a year and toxic chemicals are released into the environment during their manufacturing. Every one litre of bottled water requires three litres of water to produce. These plastic bottles leach toxic chemicals into bottled water as it sits and warms up. On average it costs pennies for a litre of tap water, but it costs on average $1.50 for a litre of bottled water - and there are more standards in place regulating municipal tap water than bottled water.
What on earth is Xeriscape Gardening?
Xeriscape (pronounced zerah-skaype) is a trademarked, water-conserving gardening program that began in the early 1980s during periods of severe drought. Its popularity increases every year because it saves money in water costs, and saves the gardener valuable time and effort leaving more time to enjoy the garden.
The following article, “Gardening in Dryer Times”, gives a better idea of what to expect when planning your drought-hardy garden.
Gardening in Dryer Times - Try a Xeriscape Garden!
Planning your garden? Adding to or wanting to re-do an area? Why not consider planting an easy maintenance garden area, where little watering and weeding are needed?
With hot, dry summers usually in the forecast, it may be time to reconsider the 'large lawn' and try something new. A xeriscape garden will allow you more time to enjoy your garden, and takes less time and money to maintain. The word xeriscape comes from the Greek word "xeros" meaning dry and "scape" from landscape. In a xeriscape landscape, plants that are native to our drier area and need less water are a good choice. Native trees and shrubs also offer local wildlife familiar and varied habitat.
There are many ground covers, annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees that do well in dry climates. Contact our Water Wise staff for more details on specific plants.
When planning your garden, consider grouping any plants that need more water in one area, preferably on the north or east side of your house or slope in your garden. For the very hot dry areas of your garden, consider succulents. Succulents prefer a lean (no compost) well-aerated, gritty soil with good drainage. You need only water these plants during prolonged drought.
If you currently have a large lawn, think of reducing it to a size that meets your requirements and try to avoid narrow strips. When planning a lawn, bluegrass lawns can go dormant (brown off) for several months during warm spells with little or no long-term damage. A good alternative to a lawn is planting ornamental drought hardy grasses and ground covers. The ideal soil for water-conserving landscapes, achieved by keeping your soil well aerated and increasing the organic material, is one that drains well and stores water.
Once your xeriscape is set up, water only in extended periods of drought. Over-watering will contribute to rapid-growing, weak plants, leaching out the goodness from the soil and predisposing your garden to insect/disease problems. Frequent, shallow watering, destroys deep roots of lawns and garden plants, leaving only the shallow surface roots, which are susceptible to draught. Lawns in our area do well with a once-a-week deep watering (30 minutes is usually enough) or a half-inch of rain every two to three days. You can tell when your grass needs watering: when walked on it should spring back, if not it is time to water. Let your lawn grow longer, 3" is good, as taller grass keeps the soil cool; and growth slows down as it gets taller, so less cutting.
Watering trees will depend first on the type: is it a drought hardy Douglas Fir, Mountain Ash or Sumac? For these trees, only in extreme drought do they need water; you need only look at the forests they are thriving in. With trees that need more water, be sure to mulch the ground around them, but do not cover any visible roots or the trunk. A rule of thumb for watering your garden trees that need moderate watering is ten gallons of water for each inch diameter of tree trunk, once a week for small trees, once every ten days medium trees and once every two weeks for large trees. With a soft spray wand, this would mean for a tree with a two-inch diameter, five minutes with a soft spray wand, ten minutes with a soaker hose or ten minutes with a small sprinkler set at its base. Less lawn and garden to cut, weed and water, means more time for you to enjoy your garden!
Additional drought-hardy gardening tips
Lawns: when cutting, set your blades high - longer grass provides shade, protects the roots and prevents water evaporation. Keep the blades sharp, as dull blades will tear and damage the grass causing it to then use more water than a healthy lawn. When choosing grass, seed grasses such as bluegrass and ryegrass are good drought- and disease-hardy choices for our area.
Lawns are not natural ecosystems, as they are one species covering a large area which encourages insects and weeds. Instead, consider ground covers, trees and flowers, drought-hardy, of course. Check out our Water Wise Plant Guide.
Use drip irrigation instead of sprinklers at the roots of bushes, vegetables and any bed. Different trees require different water schedules; learn about the requirements for your trees.
Mulchwith leaves or straw to retain moisture in the soil surrounding bedding plants, and take the grass catcher off your lawn mower. Grass clippings work as great compost, once the sun and rain break them down.
For more on xeriscape gardening, visit the following links:
In the classrooms, students learn about the chemistry of water, watersheds and take measurable challenges, learning through doing. An extensive Teachers Guide, for our area, has been developed and is given to all teachers participating in the program. At Gavin Lake, each class is briefed on water conservation, while water wise site signage in washrooms, showers and kitchen, remind residents to conserve water. Displays and signage on water facts, watersheds and salmonids in the area bring the significance of water in the ecosystems at Gavin. Rain barrels and a xeriscape garden demonstrate alternative, water friendly landscapes.
Water Wise also presents to children's groups, high schools, the Elder College, Thompson Rivers University, local businesses, and any other groups that would like to learn more.
An important part of water conservation education is the recognition that all species are reliant on healthy watersheds. From the smallest invertebrate to the mighty salmon, the industrious beaver to the mighty grizzly bear, we all need clean water to survive.
Please call 250 398-7929 or email email@example.com to book a presentation for your group - summary of education models.
Jenny Howell, Water Wise Instructor
Community Liaison – 250.398.7929
Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society
Unit 102, 197 2nd Ave North Williams Lake, B.C., V2G 1Z5
Phone/Fax: 250 398-7929 • firstname.lastname@example.org • Coordinator: Marg Evans
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