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Canadians Need To Change Their Attitudes About Water

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In the past two years, Canadians have been walloped over the head with the realities of extreme weather.

But rather than adapt and protect themselves from the potentially disastrous effects of this new reality, Canadians are instead opting to do nothing.

The finding comes from the 7th annual RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study which this year focussed on extreme weather and flooding. According to the study, 74 per cent of the 2,074 Canadians polled agree that climate change will increase the frequency of extreme weather events, but only nine per cent of Canadians have actually taken precautionary measures to protect themselves and their homes.

These findings indicate there is room for municipalities to modify water policy and practices in order to enact and incent behavioural changes among Canadians.

“Now’s the time to move while the memory of floods is vivid and before the next extreme weather event, because you run out of capacity if you’re struck with these too often,” said Bob Sandford, the chair of the Canadian Partnership initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade.

“I think it’s pretty fair to say that we have a pretty good idea of what the cost of doing nothing is, and it’s mounting,” said Sandford.

The costs are staggering. The Calgary flood of 2013 alone cost roughly $6 billion.

Yet despite the costs, and the social, mental and physical toll on Canadians who have been affected, the study found that people continue to be ignorant on water-related issues.

This may be in part because Canadians are largely unaware of where their water comes from and the systems required to move water from source to tap and back.  Not surprisingly, this correlates to the finding that water infrastructure and issues are consistently low priorities for Canadians who tend to place higher value on health care and hospitals.

Some experts believe the most effective way to get Canadians to value their water is to hit them where they’ll notice: In their wallets.

      “We need to communicate with water users that there is a value to the system, that water is not free,” said Tanja McQueen, CEO of the British Columbia water and Waste Association. “There is a cost to collecting it, treating it, and delivering it, and those systems need to be maintained and upgraded.”

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