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This article was published 22/9/2010 (2470 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
MONTREAL -- He's calling for a revolution in how Canadians think about water and how they use it -- whether it's for washing their cars, rinsing their hair or flushing their toilets.
A prominent water expert says Canadians shouldn't fear warnings that the resource could someday be in short supply, because the country is flooded with it and likely won't run out.
What he wants Canadians to keep in mind is the energy cost associated with using water.
John Carey, a former senior executive at Environment Canada, says Canadians should be reminded of the vast amounts of power used to treat, heat and pump water to their taps.
One possible way to do that, he suggests, is by introducing water meters in homes or businesses.
"Energy is important, it's going to be important in the future... we're not really wasting water, we're wasting energy," Carey said Wednesday after addressing an international water conference in Montreal.
"When we withdraw water to flush a toilet what does it really matter if it's seven litres or 15 litres if it all goes back? All we've done is borrowed it."
In his speech, Carey called on Canadian experts to persuade the country's water-rich citizens to cut back on their usage for the sake of energy conservation -- and for their wallets.
This approach, he insisted, would have a better chance of hitting home with Canadians than existing water-conservation campaigns.
He said it's difficult to persuade Canadians to conserve water when most of the population lives near the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, home to 20 per cent of the planet's freshwater.
"They're trying to make us feel guilty for how much water we use and trying to get us to do something about it," said Carey, the recently retired head of Environment Canada's water science and technology directorate.
"None of these campaigns, I would argue, have truly captured Canadians' attention." But he thinks economics could.
Carey estimates that one per cent of all electricity generated in Canada is used for wastewater treatment, while as much as 10 per cent is spent to produce drinking water.
He suggested that municipal governments get involved by installing water meters that charge meaningful rates -- instruments that can cut water consumption in half.
When Carey's own southern Ontario community installed water meters, he says he was compelled to install low-flush toilets and high-efficiency shower heads. He has since seen drops in his household's water usage and its power bills.
"I know what a motivator it was for me," he said.
About 68 per cent of Canadian municipalities are metered.
-- The Canadian Press