Programme  OS6f The human dimension of water management  abstract 319

Water Soft Paths: Planning Beyond Demand Management

Author(s): Paul A. Kay, David B. Brooks
Paul A. Kay, MIWRA, Chair, Department of Environment & Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada David B. Brooks, MIWRA, Director of Research, Friends of the Earth Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


Article: abs319_article.pdf
Get Adobe Reader

Session: OS6f The human dimension of water management
AbstractConservation technologies, such as

water reuse, and demand management tools, such as economic instruments, are important approaches for matching

water demand to supply. With growing population and climatic change, such tools may not be sufficient to ensure

sustainability of water resources. The water soft path (WSP) is both an analytical technique and a proactive planning

tool that can identify much larger savings in water use. Whereas demand management asks "how" to conserve water

and be more efficient in the use of water for given purposes, WSP adds the question "why" water should be used at

all to attain those purposes.

This paper describes a recent water soft path study conducted in Canada. We

believe this to be the first full study to consider all the main distinguishing characteristics of WSP: ecosystem

preservation is given priority over resource exploitation; water is treated as provider of services rather than as an

end; quality of water delivered is matched to that required by the end use; and, backcasting rather than forecasting is

used to specify the future. As well, the study allowed the assessment of administrative-spatial scale (municipality,

watershed, province) appropriate for WSP study.

Canadian provinces have most constitutional responsibility

for water management, and thus should be an appropriate scale for policy making. Yet, too often water policy arises

by default. Issues of data quality and quantity, and spatial variability, however, make detailed analysis difficult at

provincial scale. Indications for Ontario, however, are that a future with population and economic growth but using

the same amount of water as at present is conceivable. Watershed scale is ecologically appropriate for analysis, and

in some cases existing management institutions exist. In Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, standard demand

management measures would not likely be adequate to ensure an ecologically, socially, and economically secure and

prosperous future, or to prepare for unforeseen water conditions. Full soft path principles, however, would permit a

reduction in water use to less than half current levels without requiring any constraints on population, economic, or

agricultural growth. Many efficiency and conservation measures are in place, or readily available, in municipal

(residential and institutional) settings. Detailed study in a small city in British Columbia suggests a WSP future of

one-third to one-half less water than now with no constraints on population or economy.

Our results are

indicative rather than definitive, yet they clearly show that: 1) WSP analysis is indeed feasible and distinct from

conventional analyses; 2) potential savings can be demonstrated that go well beyond those available with demand

management and that also take direct account of such issues as ecological protection and economic development;

and, 3) there is potential for even more impressive results with further and stronger studies. As an analytical study,

soft paths show a potential for reducing water use in modern societies. As a planning tool, they shift our practice

from water policy by neglect to policy by specific choice for sustainability.

  Revenir en haut