LETTER: Concerned about decreasing water reserves

A group of Nelson scientists, politicians and activists wants our water shortage to be taken more seriously.

The undersigned, as individual residents of this area, have been meeting due to our concerns regarding the increasing drought, fires and storms experienced this year, and the implications these have for our communities. The City of Nelson is on Stage 4 water restrictions with the lowest water reserves on record. Alternative water systems will be expensive to create.

Nelson’s fire-fighting actions may now find themselves in conflict with domestic water-supply needs. In rural areas people on wells, springs or creeks are experiencing decreased water levels. Our fall continues to be unusually warm and dry, and predictions are for low precipitation this winter and therefore for even less runoff to fill our reservoirs during the spring and summer in 2016. There is reason for concern.

For some people in the community, the current conditions may be perceived as just short-term isolated events and therefore their concern may disappear with the first rainfall. Many of us know little about the source of our water, that water is actually a shared and limited resource, how much water we use each day, or why alternative water systems are expensive.

For those who have been following climate change predictions, these current issues are seen in the context of the impacts of fossil fuel use on our atmosphere and are consistent with the projections of scientific climate and hydrologic models. Those models indicate that the situation is going to get much worse than what we are currently experiencing. Many are taking a hard look at the long-term implications on food growing, fisheries, forest practices, dam regulations and economic priorities.

The West Kootenay has long been known for its resilience and cooperation, demonstrating our capacity to learn to live together in changing conditions. These capacities are greatly enhanced if information is easily available and collaborative engagement is fostered.

We ask that all levels of government accurately gather and share information, and create various forums for community and industry dialogues so that we all can comprehend and take action personally and collectively in response to this “new normal.”

There are many actions we can take right now as individuals, such as water conservation practices and retrofits in our homes and businesses and water-smart designs in any new construction. Collectively we can request such things as policies regarding building codes that ensure conservation and efficiency. Globally we can be active in understanding the link between our current fire and drought conditions and the need to support low carbon emission targets and a green economy.

Regarding more information, we look forward to further updates from the city and regional district regarding our water situation. Also we are planning a community forum to be held in the spring in which we can together discuss more about our current water resources, methods of being water stewards, and of the connections to climate change. In addition the Climate of Change program on Kootenay Co-op Radio recently aired interviews on this topic which are available by podcast at kootenaycoopradio.com/index.php?/radio-show/show/climate_of_change. The “lull” of the coming winter is not a time to be complacent but rather can provide a foundational time for action.

Martin Carver, Ramona Faust, Jan Inglis, Michael Jessen, Mel Reasoner, Laura Sacks, Valerie Warmington

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