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Columns: Water Water Everywhere And Nary A Drop To Drink
By David D.Hull. BC Hydro has encouraged electric conservative for decades. I remember back in the 70â€™s stickers plastered on switches reminding you to turn off the lights when you left a room.
Have you ever wondered why an organization whose fiscal survival depends on the sale of their product spends millions of dollars a year educating, inducing, and cajoling customers to cut back the consumption of their product?
You do not see Esso or Shell saying, â€œIf you walked, took the bus, or bought a more efficient car you would use less of our product.â€ It is counterintuitive to say the least. There are mitigating factors with BC Hydro such as political direction and regulations requisite in a monopolist environment however they still encourage you to conserve usage of their product.
BC Hydro has utilised a common business practice for decades; capital avoidance. This is not a new business concept. New hydro production costs into the many billions of dollars. BC Hydro has managed to maximize the capacity of their current capital investment while meeting customer needs and realizing a good return on their finite inventory.
BC Hydro has convinced us that electricity is akin to gold. Look at your electricity bill. Your average monthly bill is probably less than taking everyone in your household out for one modest meal. Not a big deal compared to most household expenses.
We have it ingrained in us that wasting electricity is fiscally, and almost morally, wrong. We conserve electricity like there was hardly any left and what we have is precious and costs a fortune. Why not water?
Canada has the second highest consumption per capita of water in the world after the US. Abbotsford is in the top side of the highest users per capita in Canada. Agriculture and industry are not the culprits. Wasteful personal and household practices are the biggest contributors.
When it comes to water the City of Abbotsford currently has a finite supply with a very expensive capital expenditure requisite to add capacity. Does this sound familiar?
There is no question we will need additional water to grow the population and economy. Without getting into the â€œwhen disputeâ€ of the last election the eventuality is without question. When the time arrives, regardless of the manner of construction and operation, the bill will be huge.
CAPITAL AVOIDANCE: So how about Water Smart. I am not talking measures within the realm of current practices as outlined in the city report which will only put off capital expenditure a few years. How about Water Smart on steroids. Water Smart 2.0 Instead of living Lavida Loca when it comes to water use letâ€™s try living Lavida Phoenix or Dubai.
I am not talking brown lawns and shrivelled gardens. BC Hydro does not expect you to sit in the dark. There is an endless list of worldwide best practices to conserve water. We need to go way beyond generally accepted Canadian practices and become a leader in water conservation.
Letâ€™s take some pages out of BC Hydroâ€™s play book. Maximize the infrastructure we have through modernization, delivery improvements, storage, re-charging and the elimination of any further impediments preventing us from realizing the full value of our existing infrastructure investment.
Create demonstrable incentives, and a positive climate, for businesses to invest in water conservation. Make investing in water conservation a smart business decision. Create programs, and palpable fiscal incentives, for homeowners to invest in water conservation. I would suggest most households have spent more in the last ten years on electrical conservation than water conservation.
More money has been spent converting incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescents and replacing appliances with efficient ones, with electrical savings being a big motivating factor, than has been spent on water conservation. Why? Because BC Hydro told you so.
During the municipal election the Stave Lake water question dominated. The townsfolk rose up in anger and gnashed their teeth at the perceived privatization/outsourcing/loss of control of â€œthe most basic essential of life.â€ â€œWater is a basic human rightâ€ many railed on. Well then letâ€™s give it the attention is so richly deserves.
We need to start pricing water like it is gold. The Cityâ€™s water pricing structure is counterintuitive. The first litre is just as precious, and costs the just the same, as the one millionth. Yet we reward a household of two who are wasteful while punishing a large multigenerational household who practice conservation.
If we could achieve a level of appreciation for the cost and finite supply of water to the level that has been engrained in us with electricity the city could practice capital avoidance and play with the big boys of municipal management on a world scale.
Capital avoidance is a powerful and effective management tool. The City of Abbotsford has the opportunity to become a leader in best practices in municipal resource management with the very positive result of being fiscally responsible and saving taxpayers a lot of money per annum. Then we could all be living Lavida Abbotsford.
David D. Hull has over 30 years of business experience with small and medium enterprises and multi national corporations. A specialist in organizational and change management he has also been a life long student, and participant, in politics and government. Hull has spent the majority of his life in very public roles in business and as a city councillor, representative of business interests through the province and Canada and most recently with the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce.