Water shamers provide public service

Tightening water restrictions prompt public policing of water abusers.

There’s an old saying that when the water hole shrinks, the animals look at each other differently.

This is certainly the case in B.C., particularly in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island, where drought conditions and subsequent tightening water restrictions have neighbours policing each other for water use.

Today, Friday, July 10, the sky is overcast and it looks like rain is on the way. Keeping my fingers crossed. All of the province could use a solid week or so of rain to help ease the battle against the numerous wildfires and provide a much needed replenishing of water reserves.

It might also help stem the flow of ‘drought shaming’ a sort of unorganized public Internet campaign to humiliate water abusers that has generated a wave of debate on the West Coast.

Many are shaming the B.C. government for moving ahead with the Water Sustainability Act and a pricing structure that would see private companies pay a paltry $2.25 per million litres of extracted groundwater (which we, in turn, can buy back at $1 per 500 ml. bottle).

That is $2.25 more than what companies currently pay. (The B.C. government has just decided to revisit the pricing structure. The challenge is charging for water without charging for water, and making water a commodity subject to global trade agreements.)

Folks have also taken to making an example of their neighbouring water abusers – people who seem to think their watering needs take precedent over pesky restrictions. While some choose to shame abusers via Twitter and social media, others are reporting abusers to local municipalities, which in turn pay a visit to said abusers and issue a warning or a fine.

This phenomenon is currently the subject of some dispute, with people questioning whether or not it’s right to “snitch” on your neighbours. Some argue people should attempt to communicate with their water-abusing neighbours instead of reporting them, claiming the snitch approach further degrades sense of community. If said abusers had community in mind, I’d expect there wouldn’t be a need to report them.  Furthermore, if abusers are knowingly bucking watering restrictions, it’s unlikely they’ll be positively receptive to interference from their nosey, water-wise neighbours.

As for municipalities doing the enforcement, they should be grateful for the neighbourhood watch. Lack of enforcement ability is a common criticism among municipal council’s when contemplating regulation.

Thankfully, there does not yet appear to be a need for tightened water restrictions in the Shuswap. There are already restrictions in place for Salmon Arm and Sicamous residents and people, for the most part, appear to be following them. Hopefully this reflects not only respect for community, but also the fact water, even in B.C., is a finite resource that cannot be taken for granted.