The pressure on water and wastewater infrastructure in Canadian municipalities continues to rise with the need for increased capacity and upgrades. Demands to extend and maintain municipal infrastructure means that capital costs threaten to swallow municipal budgets. And the questions about resource availability—who is going to pay, for what and how much—is needed to resolve this pressure. This could quite quickly become economically and politically overwhelming.
A water efficiency strategy has helped some municipalities to maintain or reduce their residential and commercial water consumption. This demand adjustment then allows the municipality to defer some capital investment. More recently, there is a growing acknowledgement by municipal governments that a demand-focused strategy can support a more environmentally sustainable balance within their watershed.
Relying solely on municipal governments to see that water demand (or efficiency) policies are implemented, and enforced, is risky. Government priorities and responsibilities change, citizen interests evolve and funding programs can be cut. Yet the private sector’s contribution to promoting and sustaining residential and commercial water efficiency initiatives represents an untapped opportunity for collaboration. But for this collaboration to occur, new and innovative partnerships are needed between municipalities, citizens, residential realtors and the builders.
Unfortunately, residential realtors and builders have been neglected in the water efficiency and governance research. Conventional explanations for this neglect are that the private sector has been slow to embrace efficiency innovations because they are not economically viable and because buyers are not interested. Water efficiency research tends to have focused on the public’s consumption rates and the tools—e.g., pricing or awareness campaigns—designed to decrease that demand.
Related to Policy:
- Use new legislation and regulations judiciously.
- Interventions in support of green building (including water efficiency) should focus on opportunities for continuing education, networking and collaboration.
- The use of effective marketing materials and ‘labels’ provide legitimacy.
- Builders’ relationships with municipal regulations and authorities are important, constantly evolving and often in conflict.
Related to the Building Industry:
- Relationships with industry professional associations need to be proactive, rather than reactive, on issues of environmental innovations.
- Harness the power of the professional associations and their membership.
- The industry has a latent and untapped environmental ethic that should be capitalized upon.
- Green Building interventions need to target a wide demographic because all realtors and builders are potential innovators.
- Informal and formal education opportunities need to be created, readily identified, and more easily incorporated into the business cycle.
- More education is needed within the building industry specific to the diverse range of water efficiency opportunities.
- Use the ‘belief in new technology as a solution’ judiciously and recognize its constraints.
- The “risk-recognition interaction” is a powerful force in support of market innovation.
- Municipalities need to price water appropriately.
- Collaboration and networking opportunities change peoples’ perspectives.
- Harness the sense of social responsibility.
- Create a community vision.
- Consumer education of water efficiency and innovation needs to be the responsibility of all stakeholders.