Urban sprawl and paved paradise threaten clean fresh water today and tomorrow, says leading expert
TORONTO, March 14, 2013 /CNW/ - While nine-in-10 (90 per cent) Canadians believe that an extreme weather-related disaster is possible in their community, town or city, few are aware of the consequences if excess water caused by rain and snow storms is not managed properly. In towns and cities across Canada, paved surfaces, overloaded storm water management infrastructure and extreme weather conditions dramatically increase the challenge of managing excess water caused by storms.
"Extreme storms have a direct impact on water, as storm water runoff can drag contaminants into local waterways and pollute water bodies that are important for recreation and water supplies," says Bob Sandford, chair of Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade. "All the impermeable surfaces in cities create the ideal condition for excess water to overwhelm our already strained municipal storm water systems. Municipalities, property developers and homeowners must work together to better manage storm water."
Ahead of World Water Day on March 22, the sixth annual 2013 RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study, commissioned by the RBC Blue Water Project and administered by GlobeScan, found that while two-thirds of Canadians (68 per cent) say that we should be prepared for the possibility of a major disaster that affects storm water management systems, only one-in-five (19 per cent) believe that major actions are required now.
What are Canadians willing to do to help?
This is not just a municipal planning issue. Sandford says that individual Canadians could be doing their part to manage excess water from rain and snowstorms around their homes now. Yet, according to the study, few Canadians have taken preventive measures such as landscaping with grading (23 per cent) or replacing paved surfaces with water-permeable materials such as interlocking stone or gravel (seven per cent).
Paved and impermeable surfaces are part of the problem. Half (47 per cent) of Canadians say their 'ideal' house has a paved driveway or yard - and the majority of these wouldn't change this preference even when told about the positive impact of permeable surfaces, which allow rainwater and melted snow to seep slowly into the ground rather than causing polluted runoff. Only one-in-ten (12 per cent) Canadians indicated that they would replace paved surfaces with water-permeable materials such as interlocking stone.
"Canadians continue to have a love affair with paved driveways, and there's a serious trickle-down effect. With impermeable sidewalks, roadways and parking lots added to the mix, we've actually created the ideal condition for excess water to overwhelm our already strained municipal water and storm water systems," says Sandford.
According to the study, most Canadians say that they plan to take measures to help prevent water damage in and around their home in the coming year such as maintaining eavestroughs and downspouts (64 per cent) and adding landscaping such as grading (33 per cent).
"In most cities across Canada, infrastructure is crumbling and in urgent need of replacement or repair. It's time for a wake-up call," says Sandford. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates cost of replacement for drinking water, wastewater and storm water infrastructure reported to be in 'fair' or 'very poor' condition to be approximately $80 billion.
A large majority of Canadians (78 per cent) continue to trust that their municipal water infrastructure is in good condition and don't see a need for major investments. Despite this confidence, just 15 per cent of Canadians admit to being 'very aware' of the condition of their municipal water infrastructure. Additionally, an overwhelming number of Canadians (80 per cent) are not willing to pay for necessary storm water management system upgrades.
Highlights of the Study
Canada's most important natural resource
- Forty-seven per cent believe fresh water is Canada's most important natural resource, down from 55 per cent in 2012.
- Sixteen per cent say agricultural land is most important.
- Fifteen per cent believe oil is Canada's most important, except in Alberta, where 41 per cent thought oil was most important.
Water conservation behaviours
- Sixty-nine per cent of Canadians are trying reasonably heard to conserve water, slightly down from 71 per cent in 2012.
- One-in-10 Canadians use an automated sprinkler system.
- Thirty per cent of Canadian homeowners use rain barrels or other devices to collect rainwater runoff.
- Fifty-four per cent of Canadians have paved driveways.
- Forty-seven per cent say their ideal house has a paved driveway.
- Sixty per cent of 18-34 year olds would give up a paved driveway to help water management.
- Only 24 per cent of urban dwellers have unpaved or water permeable driveways.
About the 2013 RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study
The 2013 RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study included an online survey administered by GlobeScan between January 23 and February 11, 2013. It included a sample of 2,282 Canadian adults from GMI's Canadian panel. Weighting was employed to balance demographics, to ensure the sample's composition reflects the adult population according to Canadian Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. Results were weighted by gender, age, region, and community size. The sample included a minimum of 200 respondents in each of Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal, and 300 in Toronto. The margin of error for a strict probability sample for as sample of this size (n=2,282) would be ±2.
About RBC Blue Water Project
The RBC Blue Water Project is an historic, wide-ranging, 10-year global commitment to help protect the world's most precious natural resource: fresh water. Since 2007, RBC has pledged over $36 million to more than 500 charitable organizations worldwide that protect watersheds and promote access to clean drinking water, with an additional $6 million pledged to universities for water programs. In 2013-2014, the RBC Blue Water Project will focus on supporting initiatives that help protect water in towns, cities and urbanized areas. For further information, visit www.rbc.com/bluewater.
About RBC Community and Sustainability
Royal Bank of Canada (RY on TSX and NYSE) and its subsidiaries operate under the master brand name RBC. We employ approximately 80,000 full- and part-time employees who serve more than 15 million personal, business, public sector and institutional clients through offices in Canada, the U.S. and 49 other countries. RBC is recognized among the world's financial, social and environmental leaders and is listed on the 2012 - 2013 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, the DJSI North American Index, the Jantzi Social Index and the FTSE4Good Index. RBC is one of Canada's Greenest Employers, one of Canada's 50 Most Socially Responsible Corporations and among the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World.
RBC supports a broad range of community initiatives through donations, sponsorships and employee volunteer activities. In 2012, we contributed more than $95 million to causes worldwide, including donations and community investments of more than $64 million and $31 million in sponsorships.
Image with caption: "2013 RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study: Urban-dwellers ill-prepared for impact of Mother Nature on water. (CNW Group/RBC)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20130314_C4837_PHOTO_EN_24547.jpg