All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

Washing the street and a drought coming

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Commercial Drive, March 7th.  The mountains are bare except for a bit of artificial snow.

Commercial Drive, March 7th. The mountains are bare except for a bit of artificial snow.

Yesterday, walking down the street, I see an old man, shirtless, standing on the sidewalk with a garden hose. He notices me and smiles, seemingly very pleased with himself, or with this unseasonably warm and sunny weather.

But if I stare, it’s because I’m aghast in disbelief. With his the jet from his hose, he is flushing away some leaf remnants that have accumulated along the kerb. He’s washing the street!

I feel like yelling “Haven’t you seen the mountains? There’s no snow! No snow, and we’re barely in March, for crying out loud!” Who washes a street anyways? Surely, someone anal, who can’t tolerate any dirt, who probably sprays his lawn until there is only one species of grass surviving, who has no tolerance for diversity, who is likely to fall for either-or logical fallacies, or even – gasp! – vote for Harper.

So I figure I better not say anything. I’m already cranky because I’ve been collecting articles on the Sao Paulo drought (here, here, here and here). This is a city of 20 million running out of water, and I’m amazed by the displays of selfishness and stupidity I read about. Whatever happened to people pulling together in times of crisis?

(Sao Paulo, and much of South East Brazil, has been experiencing a drought unprecedented in extent. The reservoirs are drying up and water rationing, with dry periods, are in place. But folks in the nicer areas, having access to private water reserves, are barely noticing, while the parched favela dwellers are marching in protests.)

Here in Metro Vancouver, we collect the rain that falls on the North Shore mountains, and with relatively dry summers (there’s less rain here during

The water network and reservoirs of Metro Vancouver

The water network and reservoirs of Metro Vancouver

the summer than in Montreal or Toronto) we rely on snowmelt to fill our three reservoirs to tie us over the summer. And there’s barely any snow already.

On its website, Metro assures us that there’s no cause to worry yet; there are two or three months of potential snowfall ahead. Sure enough – but I’d feel more comfortable with a solid plan B. What if we, like California, or like Brazil, are undergoing an extended dry period? What then? After all, even Tofino ran out of water a few years ago, in 2006. Tofino, one of the wettest locations in the country! I, for one, would feel more comfortable with an early water conservation program: public education, and watering restrictions (no washing of cars, no watering of lawns; what’s the point of that, anyways?).

And no washing of streets! Poor guy, he’s really done nothing to deserve my wrath. No doubt he’s actually a very nice man, kind and well meaning, nothing at all like what my mind conjured up. But I’d still prefer if he would refrain from wasting our water washing the street.


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