Water Conservation With Ralph Wells, Sustainability Manager of UNA

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With this past July one of the driest on record, many of us have been aware of the effects of limited water on a day-to-day basis – we’re having to be a lot more careful about watering our gardens in this constant heat.

But while water’s on our mind for most of us just a few months of the year, in fact, water conservation is a growing global issue. We caught up with Ralph Wells, the Sustainability Manager of the University Neighbourhoods Association (UNA), to talk about what we can do right now to ensure our water is managed well year round.

1) Tell us a little about your role as Sustainability Manager of the University Neighbourhoods Association (UNA).
-It’s my responsibility to develop and deliver sustainability programs and initiatives that benefit residents living in the UNA neighbourhoods.

2) How does UNA advance the overall sustainability goals of the UBC community?
-The UNA is responsible for programs and infrastructure in the built community for the UNA neighbourhoods (i.e. after planning and construction are complete). We contribute to developing programs for about ½ the nighttime population of UBC, which is currently approximately 16,000 (the other ½ includes residents in UBC student and institutional housing).

3) How serious of a concern is water conservation? Is it a seasonal issue?
-Globally it is a very serious issue, with growing populations and with increasing, climate change related, drought. Locally, water conservation is currently a seasonal issue, with consumption exceeding inputs into Metro Vancouver reservoirs during summer and early fall. With our local population continuing to rapidly grow, local water conservation will gain importance in the future.

4) What can we do to help conserve water - now, and into the future - both as individuals and as neighbourhoods?
-At the individual level, about 80% of home water consumption comes from showers, toilets and laundry (roughly equally among these categories). Individuals can contribute to conservation by ensuring they have low flow showerheads and toilets and front load washers (which use much less water than top load washers). You can also conserve water by having shorter showers (and save energy too!), and by using full laundry loads. At the neighbourhood level, the UBC green building program requires that buildings have water efficient irrigation systems and drought resistant plants. Ensuring your building landscape maintenance contractor maintains the irrigation system can help ensure they conserve water as intended.

Many thanks to Ralph Wells, and the UNA, for their continuing stewardship of our sustainable mandates in UBC’s communities.