Canada 2nd worst on water performance, says Conference Board of Canada

According to an analysis published by the Conference Board of Canada this country has the second worst performance on water withdrawals (water use) amongst a group of 16 peer countries.

The Conference Board states that Canada’s water withdrawals are nearly double that of the 16-country average. Industry is Canada’s largest water user. This can be attributed to the lack of widespread water conservation practices and water pricing that does not promote efficiency.

Amongst industrial water users, thermal-electric power producers withdraw 86 per cent. Manufacturers take 12.4 per cent—where water is mainly used in paper industries, primary metals industry, and chemicals industries. Mining industries are responsible for 1.6 per cent of total industrial withdrawals.

The Board urges that Canadians must start paying more for water and embrace water conservation measures or risk the depletion of one of Canada’s most valuable resources.

The full article – one page – is available at

A commentary on drinking water fountains in the US

Last Wednesday’s Washington Post contained an interesting commentary on the demise of the drinking water fountain. Given the propensity of some Canadian municipalities and building managers to move towards drinking water fountains, and the pressure from some environmental groups to move towards drinking fountains and away from bottled water, GallonDaily found the article to be interesting social commentary.

Among the numerous good points made in the opinion piece:

  • Water fountains have been disappearing from public spaces throughout the country over the last few decades,” lamented Nancy Stoner, an administrator in the Environmental Protection Agency’s water office. Water scholar Peter Gleick writes that they’ve become “an anachronism, or even a liability.” Jim Salzman, author of “Drinking Water: A History,” says they’re “going the way of pay phones.”
  • In the 2015 edition of the International Plumbing Code, which lays out recommendations on matters such as the number of bathrooms an office should have and how pipes should work, authors slashed the number of required fountains for each building by half.
  • While U.S. consumption of bottled water quadrupled between 1993 and 2012 (reaching 9.67 billion gallons annually), that’s more a symptom than a cause. The sense today is that drinking water fountains are dangerous, not maintained and are dirty.
  • In response to activist pressure, the US government drafted measures like 1974’s Safe Drinking Water Act. The legislation made water much safer by limiting dumping and setting contaminant standards. But it had an unintended consequence: Because municipalities had to notify residents of contamination immediately, Americans who had grown up trusting tap water were now getting bombarded with warnings of possible risks.
  • Today, 77 percent of Americans are concerned about pollution in their drinking water, according to Gallup, even though tap water and bottled water are treated the same way, and studies show that tap is as safe as bottled.
  • The disappearance of water fountains has hurt public health. Centers for Disease Control researcher Stephen Onufrak has found that the less young people trust water fountains, the more sugary beverages they drink. Studies have found that kids who consume sugary drinks regularly are 60 percent more likely to be obese, and adults who do so are 26 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

Like many other environmental issues, that of drinking water fountains is not simple. Installing a drinking water fountain in a space or building not designed for such a system may have a greater environmental impact than use of bulk containers. If usage levels are low, even bottles may have a smaller environmental footprint than a fountain unless there is a water tap nearby. Use of tap water often leads to much greater wastage of water and energy than use of bottled water, provided empty water bottles are recycled. Bottled water has the lowest environmental impact of all packaged beverages, simply because every other packaged beverage, including such drinks as soft drinks, juices, and coffee, contains water plus other substances that lead to it having a higher environmental footprint. Water from a tap or fountain is the best choice for hydration but if no tap or fountain is available then water from a bottle has a lower environmental footprint that any other drink you can buy.

GallonDaily suggests that the factors described in the Washington Post article could be addressed by a new drinking water fountain design that is more technologically advanced than that commonly used in public facilities. A built-in sterilizer for both the water and the bowl, metered dispensing into a recyclable or compostable cup instead of the round ball that is licked by every child and dog, and a temperature controlled water cooling system might be the kind of technology that is needed to restore public trust in public drinking water fountains.

The article We don’t trust drinking fountains anymore, and that’s bad for our health can be found at

Trudeau environment and economy policy thin on details

Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, today announced an environment and economy policy platform that appears to be designed to woo some of the green vote in October’s federal election. Among the initiatives included in the announcement:

  • Within 90 days of the December 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, a Canadian First Ministers meeting will be held to work together on a framework to combat climate change. Central to this will be the creation of national emissions-reduction targets. As part of the comprehensive emissions reduction agreement with provinces and territories, we will provide targeted federal funding to help them achieve these goals.
  • We will fulfill Canada’s G-20 commitment to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. The next step will be to allow for the use of the Canadian Exploration Expenses tax deduction only in cases of unsuccessful exploration. The savings will be re-directed to investments in new and clean technologies.
  • We will work with the United States and Mexico to develop an ambitious North American clean energy and environment agreement.
  • We will work with provinces, territories, Aboriginal governments, and municipalities to develop a comprehensive action plan that allows Canada to better predict, prepare for, and respond to weather related emergencies.
  • We will also provide training and the necessary resources to establish the Canadian Armed Forces as world-class leaders in responding to weather related emergencies.
  • We will invest $200 million more annually to create sector-specific strategies that support innovation and clean technologies in the forestry, fisheries, mining, energy, and agricultural sectors.
  • We will invest $100 million more per year in organizations that have been successful at supporting the emergence of clean technology firms in Canada, including Sustainable Development Technology Canada. We will also work in partnership with the private sector to enhance the availability of venture capital for new, clean technology.
  • We will work with provinces, territories, universities, and colleges to put in place a full range of support for emerging clean tech companies. We will also create Canada Research Chairs in sustainable technology.
  • We will work with the provinces to set stronger air quality standards. We will also improve monitoring and reporting of air pollutants emissions.
  • We will consult on ways to enhance the scientific research and experimental development tax credit – in conjunction with other tax measures – to generate more clean technology investment. We will start by adding electricity storage technologies and electrical car charging stations to the list of investments that are eligible for accelerated capital cost allowance.
  • We will establish the Canada Green Investment Bond to support both large- and community-scale renewable energy projects.
  • By ensuring that the federal government dramatically increases its use of clean technologies in energy, buildings, and procurement, we will help create domestic demand for clean technology firms, support Canadian entrepreneurs, and lead by example.
  • We will improve energy efficiency standards for consumer and commercial products to ensure they reflect the most up-to-date technology. We will use new financing instruments to stimulate retrofits and distributed energy systems, and make significant improvements to the energy efficiency of Canada’s industrial, commercial, and residential buildings.
  • We will provide more support for our clean technology companies to successfully export their products by training trade officials and leading trade missions focused on clean technology.
  • We will launch an immediate, public review of Canada’s environmental assessment processes. Based on this review, a Liberal government will [implement] a new, comprehensive, timely, and fair process that:

– Restores robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments – which have been gutted by this Conservative government – of areas under federal jurisdiction, while also working with provincial and territorial governments to ensure that processes are not duplicated;
– Ensures decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence, and serve the public’s interest;
– Provides ways for interested Canadians to express their views and for experts to meaningfully participate in assessment processes; and
– Requires project proponents to choose the best technologies available to reduce environmental impacts.

  • We will rapidly develop a road map to meet Canada’s international commitment to protect 17 percent of our land and inland waters by 2020.
  • We will protect our National Parks by restricting development inside the parks, and where possible, we will work with gateway communities outside the parks to grow their eco-tourism industries and create jobs. We will make the sustainable economic development of gateway communities a stronger part of the Parks Canada’s mandate.
  • We will increase the amount of Canada’s marine and coastal areas that are protected from 1.3 percent to 5 percent by 2017, and 10 percent by 2020.
  • We will [formalize] the moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast, including the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound, to ensure that ecologically sensitive areas and local economies are protected from the potentially devastating impacts of a spill.
  • We will restore $1.5 million in federal funding for freshwater research and make new investments in Canada’s world-leading IISD Experimental Lakes Area.

The full document can be found at

California climate initiative may impact Ontario & Quebec

As a result of agreements between the three jurisdictions that have already been entered into, a new climate initiative announced today by California Governor Jerry Brown is likely to have an impact on Ontario and Quebec climate initiatives, especially as integrated cap and trade programs have to operate under broadly similar frameworks. While lacking in details, the Governor’s Executive Order certainly raises the bar for North American climate programs. Among the aspects of the Executive Order:

A new interim statewide greenhouse gas emission reduction target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 is established.

  • All state agencies with jurisdiction over sources of greenhouse gas emissions shall implement measures, pursuant to statutory authority, to achieve reductions of greenhouse gas emissions to meet the 2030 target.
  • The California Natural Resources Agency shall update every three years the state’s climate adaptation strategy and ensure that its provisions are fully implemented.
  • The adaptation strategy shall:
    • identify vulnerabilities to climate change by sector and regions, including, at a minimum, the following sectors: water, energy, transportation, public health, agriculture, emergency services, forestry, biodiversity and habitat, and ocean and coastal resources.
    • outline primary risks to residents, property, communities and natural systems from these vulnerabilities, and identify priority actions needed to reduce these risks.
  • Each sector lead will be responsible to:
    • Prepare an implementation plan by September 2015 to outline the actions that will be taken as identified in Safeguarding California, and
    • Report back to the California Natural Resources Agency by June 2016 on actions taken.
  • State agencies shall take climate change into account in their planning and investment decisions, and employ full life-cycle cost accounting to evaluate and compare infrastructure investments and alternatives.
  • Priority should be given to actions that both build climate preparedness and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,
  • Where possible, flexible and adaptive approaches should be taken to prepare for uncertain climate impacts.
  • Actions should protect the state’s most vulnerable populations.
  • Natural infrastructure solutions should be prioritized.
  • The state’s Five-Year Infrastructure Plan will take current and future climate change impacts into account in all infrastructure projects.
  • The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research will establish a technical, advisory group to help state agencies incorporate climate change impacts into planning and investment decisions.
  • The state will continue its rigorous climate change research program focused on understanding the impacts of climate change and how best to prepare and adapt to such impacts.

Until some other announcement takes top spot on the California Governor’s webpage  the Executive Order and an accompanying press release can be found at

Green Roads

Most GallonDaily readers are probably at least somewhat familiar with the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system for buildings but what about green roads? A US organization has risen to the challenge and has developed and is implementing an environmental rating system for road construction. Now the Greenroads Foundation is beginning to roll out certifications for road construction projects that meet its standard,

The South Fraser Perimeter Road in British Columbia is the first major project outside of the United States to achieve Greenroads Certification. The 38 kilometre road project with a mostly asphalt surface includes several wildlife crossings, preservation and restoration activities, and a variety of stormwater management facilities along its length.

In Tacoma, Washington, the Wapato Lake Drive project included replacement of an existing roadway with permeable pavement, allowing for better drainage than traditional stormwater management and an opportunity for groundwater recharge. Many sustainable street improvements were included to create a more environmentally friendly pedestrian link to Wapato Lake Park. The project included non-invasive and native planting, LED lighting with non-light polluting fixtures, as well as runoff flow control and runoff quality treatment.

In Bellingham, Washington, the Meador-Kansas-Ellis Trail Project provided an important connection for bicycle and pedestrian access to a recreational area. One of the most innovative strategies used on this project was the recycling of 400 old toilets, which were used as aggregate in the sidewalk concrete.  This new concrete mix has been named “Poticrete.” [That is not GallonDaily’s moniker but we do love it!]

Somewhat like LEED for buildings, Greenroads scores a project on a wide range of criteria falling under the headings of:

  • Project Requirements
  • Environment & Water
  • Access & Equity
  • Construction Activities
  • Materials & Resources
  • Pavement Technologies
  • Custom Credit

Points are awarded within each category and an overall rating of bronze, silver or gold is awarded based on the total score.

The manual, rating system, completed and in progress projects, and everything else you might need to know about Greenroads can be found at


New report applies broad definition of e-waste that potentially targets appliance manufacturers

A new report from the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability defines e-waste as all items of electrical and electronic equipment and its parts that have been discarded by its owner as waste without the intent of reuse”. This definition includes anything that uses electricity, not just the computing and communications technology that has traditionally been considered to be e-waste. Among the studies findings:

  • the global quantity of e-waste generation in 2014 was around 41.8 million tonnes.
  • this is comprised of 1.0 Mt of lamps, 6.3 Mt of screens, 3.0 Mt of small IT (such as mobile phones, pocket calculators, personal computers, printers, etc.), 12.8 Mt of small equipment (such as vacuum cleaners, microwaves, toasters, electric shavers, video cameras, etc.), 11.8 Mt of large equipment (such as washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, electric stoves, photovoltaic panels, etc.) and 7.0 Mt of cooling and freezing equipment (temperature exchange equipment).
  • according to the report, in Canada in 2014, 725 kilotonnes of e-waste, or just over 20 kilograms per person, were generated while only 122 kilotonnes, or 17%, or just over 3kg per person, found their way to officially reported take back systems.
  • common hazardous materials found in e-waste are: heavy metals (such as mercury, lead, cadmium etc.) and chemicals such as CFCs and various flame retardants. In addition to hazardous materials, e-waste also contains many valuable materials (such as iron, copper, aluminium and plastics) and precious metals (like gold, silver, platinum and palladium) that can be recycled. In fact, up to 60 elements from the periodic table can be found in complex electronics, and many of them are recoverable, though it is not always economic to do so presently.
  • from the resource perspective, e-waste is a potential “urban mine” that could provide a great amount of secondary resources for remanufacture, refurbishment and recycling. For example, the gold content from e-waste in 2014 is roughly 300 tonnes, which represents 11 per cent of the global gold production from mines in 2013 (2770 tonnes).

GallonDaily suggests that studies such as this are likely to increase the pressure that governments feel to implement extended producer responsibility programs for all categories of broadly defined e-waste. Some manufacturers of appliances have already implemented such initiatives and some appliances are already sent to metal recyclers but in many areas of North America it is still relatively difficult to find such recyclers and many places that accept various types of e-waste are still only accepting electronic waste and not the broader category of electrical waste.

The UN university report, The Global E-waste Monitor 2014: Quantities, flows and resources is available through a link at

Our consumption of rubber is leading to Asian deforestation

GallonDaily has written about how demand for palm oil is leading to tropical deforestation but now researchers from the University of East Anglia and the University of Sheffield are pointing out that increasing demand for natural rubber, primarily for tires, is contributing to major loss of Asian forests. Among their key findings:

  • more than 2 million hectares of industrial-scale and smallholder monoculture rubber plantations have been established during the last decade, primarily in mainland Southeast Asia and Southwest China.
  • between 4.3 and 8.5 million hectares of additional rubber plantations will likely be required to meet projected demand for natural rubber by 2024, threatening significant areas of Asian forest, including many protected areas.
  • some of the problem arises from potential displacement of rubber from existing plantations by more profitable oil palm.
  • conversion of forests or swidden (temporary) agriculture to monoculture rubber negatively impacts bird, bat and invertebrate biodiversity.
  • work is urgently needed to ensure rigorous biodiversity and social standards via the development of a sustainability initiative.

An abstract and the full 9 page article can be found in the journal Conservation Letters: A journal of the Society for Conservation Biology at

Only a little for the environment in the 2015 Canadian Government Budget

The 2015 Canadian Budget contains very little for those who believe that there is a need for additional spending on the environment. The following are environmental commitments, initiatives, and spending described in the 2015 Federal Government budget:

  • We [the government] will only proceed with natural resource projects that are safe for Canadians and safe for our environment.
  • $34 million over five years, starting in 2015-16, for consultations related to projects assessed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
  • Economic Action Plan 2015 includes investments to enhance marine transportation safety in the Arctic as well as to strengthen environmental protection, spill prevention and response measures in Canadian waters.
  • $80 million over five years, starting in 2015-16, to the National Energy Board for safety and environmental protection and greater engagement with Canadians.
  • $72.3 million in 2015–16, on a cash basis, to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to maintain safe and reliable operations at the Chalk River Laboratories.
  • $30.8 million over five years, starting in 2015-16, for measures to enhance the safety of marine transportation.
  • Legislation to re-establish a moratorium on oil and gas activities in Georges Bank, Nova Scotia.
  • Support the transformation of the forest sector by providing $86 million over two years, starting in 2016-17, to extend the Forest Innovation Program and the Expanding Market Opportunities Program.
  • $75 million over three years, starting in 2015-16, [for continuing] the implementation of the Species at Risk Act.
  • Providing $2.0 million in 2015-16 to the Pacific Salmon Foundation to support the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project.
  • Extending the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Program by providing $10 million per year for three years, starting in 2016-17.
  • Dedicating $34 million over five years, starting in 2015-16, to continue to support meteorological and navigational warning services in the Arctic.
  • Renewing the Chemicals Management Plan, with $491.8 million over five years, starting in 2016-17.
  • Renewing support for the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan with $99.6 million over four years ($1.35 billion on a cash basis), starting in 2016-17.
  • $15 million per year to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, of which $10 million per year is directed to collaborations between companies and researchers from universities and colleges under the new consolidated suite of similar business innovation programs. This new funding will target research areas such as natural resources and energy, advanced manufacturing, and environment and agriculture.
  • The Government intends to ensure that the costs associated with undertaking environmental studies and community consultations that are required in order to obtain an exploration permit will be eligible for Canadian Exploration Expense treatment.

GallonDaily was unable to find any mention of spending to address climate change or water quantity and quality issues in this Budget.

A full set of 2015 budget documents can be found at

The State of Sustainability 2015

Ethical Corporation, a UK-based global consultancy, publisher, and event organizer with a mission to help businesses around the globe do the right thing by their customers and the world, has just published a report on the “state of sustainability”. Among the findings of particular interest to GallonDaily:

  • Sustainability is of increasing importance to business strategy.
  • Corporate leaders around the world are increasingly persuaded by the case for sustainability.
  • Sustainability is already driving business revenues.
  • Sustainability is infiltrating all areas of business.
  • 68.9% of the global CEOs surveyed claim to be convinced of the value of sustainability.
  • 29% of “sustainability teams” report to the CEO, 21% to the head of sustainability, and 19% to the Board.
  • 46% pay an external organisation for advice/assistance with their sustainability strategy.
  • Only 21% of corporate respondents said their company is leveraging the potential of sustainability as fully as possible.
  • Only a third of respondents were able to say that they are measuring the return on investment of sustainability.

For much more information from the report, including a list of current sustainability priorities, obtain a free copy (registration required) from

Energy has the potential to be a leader in the new economy

There is a problem with the way many capital intensive and near monopoly goods, such as energy and water, are priced in our economy. The problem arises when society decides, or needs, to reduce consumption of these goods. Clearly this is happening now in the face of climate change and major regional drought. The problem, put simply, is that the ratio of fixed costs to variable costs is weighed heavily in favour of fixed costs so as demand goes down the supplier is faced with fixed costs being an even greater percentage of total costs, resulting, in a classical situation, in an increasing price for the commodity.

For example, the cost of the infrastructure required for supply of electricity is much greater than the costs of the water, fuel, renewable resources, or uranium required to generate the electricity. In some cases demand for electricity goes down by so much that generation and production equipment is idled before it has reached the end of its productive and/or economic life. This is the classic problem of “stranded assets”. The result is that ratepayers are forced to pay an increased price for less electricity, simply to continue paying off the debt that the electricity company took on to build the infrastructure in the first place.

This is pretty much a lose-lose situation for electricity companies and consumers. If society is to enthusiastically embrace conservation we are going to have to find ways to avoid having prices per unit of energy increase as demand decreases.

Energy service companies have developed a model that may well be appropriate for energy supply and local distribution companies. The model recognizes that they do not really care how many electrons (kilowatt-hours) they receive but simply want to receive the benefits, in the form of lighting, heating, motion, etc., that the electrons provide. Instead of paying for electricity, users are charged for the services provided. The services include the electricity, supply, maintenance, consumables and their replacement, and so on. Thus a consumer might contract for 900 lumens of light in a room. The ESCO would install the light, provide wiring and fittings as necessary, maintain the fixture, and replace the light bulb periodically. The same model would be even more relevant and effective when applied to large energy consuming appliances and equipment.

The environmental advantage is that if the ESCO could provide 900 lumens of light with lower electricity consumption there would be an economic incentive for them to do so, even if some additional capital cost, for example the cost of new lightbulbs, is necessary. Maybe the ESCO would even pass some of the savings on to the consumer. If the ESCO is also the utility providing the electricity then planning for demand would be easier and the need for capital investment could be more easily controlled and decisions to keep building more and more supply could be at least partially set aside in favour of more energy efficient solutions.

Imagine if the same approach existed for personal automobiles. You lease your car at a fixed price per year and per kilometre and the fixed price includes all fuel, maintenance, repairs, insurance, and consumables such as tires. You know exactly what you have to pay and, with few exceptions, that price is not going to go up. The leasing company, which may well be the manufacturer, has an incentive to keep your car well maintained so that its costs for fuel and future maintenance are minimized. The approach is not perfect but it does indicate a direction that needs to be taken if conservation and efficiency are to supercede increasing supply as the major drivers of the energy industry.

This is a GallonDaily original editorial. Comments are welcome and may be published at the discretion of the Editor.