Penticton couple taps into water conservation

Okanagan Waterwise initiative helps homeowners reduce water consumption around the yard

Doug Maxwell plants a make water work sign in the stone garden fronting his Penticton home

Doug Maxwell plants a make water work sign in the stone garden fronting his Penticton home

The Maxwells are serious about conserving water.

So much so that the Penticton couple has xeriscaped their home, front yard and back, replacing water-hungry lawn with drought-tolerant plants and grasses.

“We don’t water out here anymore, inside the fence it’s rare, and in the back it’s zero,” said Doug Maxwell.

While they don’t have an estimate of the amount of water they are saving yet, he said that it had to be considerable.

“We started a couple of years ago by doing the front yard next door,” said his wife Pat, indicating a neighbouring home, which they also own.

She said they were happy with not only the lower water usage, but the look of the yard.

“We were watering constantly, it was just a huge waste of water. So we thought we could put in something that looks nice but doesn’t take as much water. So to have the opportunity from the Okanagan Basin Water Board to do this yard was wonderful.”

The opportunity was the result of entering a contest, part of the Tap by Tap and Make Water Work initiatives which were operating throughout the South Okanagan this spring. The Maxwells were among about 1,500 South Okanagan residents who picked up a Tap by Tap water and energy saving kit this spring, containing an energy-efficient shower head, faucet aerator and shower timer. The kits were distributed in partnership between City Green Solutions, FortisBC, Environment Canada, Okanagan WaterWise and local governments in the South Okanagan.

As part of the kit, residents were also invited to take the Make Water Work pledge and be entered to win WaterWise yard improvements.

The bridging of the Tap by Tap initiative with Okanagan WaterWise’s Make Water Work outdoor water conservation campaign was a natural fit, said Stu Wells, Osoyoos mayor and chair of the OBWB. Standing in front of a sign indicating that the average person living in the Okanagan uses 675 litres of water a day, Wells said 24 per cent of that amount is going to landscaping.

“That’s basically going to lawns,” Wells said. “We have to get wiser, and this program was really neat.”

Wells complimented the success and importance of the two programs, but said it is hard to get the message about conserving water out to people.

“We have good success with our junior citizens. They get the message,” said Wells. “It’s just us guys that don’t get it. I don’t think anyone over 30 really gets the message of how important water conservation is.”

But the Maxwells, he continued, are a great example of what people can do in their own yards to make a difference.

“I think one of the saddest things I see is when someone builds a brand new house and they have this huge front lawn. Nobody uses it, but to them it completes the house,” said Pat. That’s one of the messages that Wells hopes sinks in for residents of the South Okanagan.

“We need to ask ourselves,” he said, “are we going to continue to pour drinking water on our lawns — water that has gone through costly treatment to meet drinking quality standards — or are we going to make some changes in our homes and to our landscaping?”