One of the key emerging environmental issues for Canadian communities is how to conserve, protect, and make efficient use of their water resources. Historically, water conservation has been an area where Canadians have lagged behind much of the world. Canada uses more water per capita than most other industrialized nations, but is also one of the richest in freshwater, containing eight per cent of the global supply of renewable freshwater resources. The perception that Canada’s water supply is practically limitless disguises serious concerns about how inefficient water use could affect communities going forward.
In the health care context, rigorous water conservation measures are often overlooked or viewed as unfeasible. In particular, the need to prioritize infection control and comply with relevant regulations can limit the use of water-efficient practices and technologies. As a result, health care facilities are often highly intensive water users, with some estimates placing the average overall water use for hospitals as high as 1200 liters per bed per day.
Increasing water efficiency represents an area where sustainability-minded organizations can find huge potential benefits. From a financial perspective, reduced water use not only reduces any direct costs for the water supply, but also helps to reduce energy use and other associated costs. Greater water efficiency enhances emergency preparedness and resiliency to the effects of climate change, since in the event of a disaster or extreme weather event, hospital operations become dependent on the efficient use of water. Health care facilities can also help to reduce water pollution (especially dangerous pharmaceutical pollution) and improve water quality by reducing their water waste.
Many Canadian hospitals have already implemented impressive water conservation strategies, and have realized the benefits of doing so:
- Kingston General Hospital won the 2014 Ontario Green Health Care Award for Water Conservation & Protection by reducing their water use by 25 percent, saving 76,000 cubic metres of water per year
- Hôpital Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue saved 58,000 cubic metres of water per year by installing a new cooling tower, and an additional 19,000 cubic metres by replacing their water compressors
The Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care is connecting Canadian hospitals with the tools they need to undertake water conservation measures, starting with a webinar on water use and efficiency in the health care sector on Thursday, February 5th. See details at coalitionwater.eventbrite.ca and register to attend for free. The webinar will be accompanied by a new review tool on water conservation, which identifies 100+ specific water use reduction measures for health care facilities, including how to conduct a water audit. This initiative was developed thanks to Environment Canada’s EcoAction Community Funding Program, which provides financial support to locally-based, not-for-profit organizations to undertake community-level projects that have positive, measurable results for the environment.