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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Pipes, pennies, and politics : an exploration of water conservation in the Greater Vancouver area Uitto, Taina


This thesis examines municipal water conservation activities in the Greater Vancouver area. First, I conducted a literature review to provide context for water management within the region, build a case for water conservation, and provide examples of barriers to and drivers of water conservation. Because limited studies exist that have sought to elicit the perceptions of water conservation administrators, I interviewed personnel involved with planning and implementing water conservation activities at the Greater Vancouver Regional District and in the region's municipalities. The results provide an indication of the current circumstances and potential for water conservation in the region. Interviewees identified perceived reasons for water conservation generally, and in relation to specific water conservation initiatives. They also identified positive drivers of change, and a number of obstacles that hinder the advancement of initiatives. In evaluating the potential for water conservation, I infer that there is room for improvement if a change to the status quo is desired. Although interviewees identified a comprehensive array of reasons that necessitate water conservation, when it comes to reasons for specific initiatives, interviewees were principally motivated by practical, political, and financial benefits; environmental and associated social benefits were largely unmentioned, and in some cases, dismissed as insignificant. Only a few interviewees spoke of more holistic reasons. Based on these results, there is an apparent discrepancy between what interviewees think (and practise) and what is declared by literature as the full case for water conservation. Furthermore, interviewees did not live up to the expectations set by the local literature that environmental and social considerations have significance to decision-making when it comes to water conservation. Although interviewees placed much accountability to the public and politicians, overall, the full case for water conservation has not been articulated by water conservation administrators themselves; I infer this to be a shortcoming of the current circumstances. Furthermore, there is a lack of water conservation advocates who view water management from a more holistic perspective; the results indicate the prevalence of perspectives more associated with supply and demand management. In turning the given barriers into drivers, positive opportunities for change can be found.

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