The ecological illiteracy of our local municipal governments

The thought of running out of water is scary. But then it’s just an unusually dry summer, right?

“Literally right now if we continue at the consumption levels that we are at right now we will have insufficient water by (the) end of August.”

So said Fred Manson, Parksville’s chief administrative officer, in a CBC News story about Parksville’s Level 4 water restrictions.

The thought of running out of water is scary. But then it’s just an unusually dry summer, right?

Wrong. Climate scientists have been warning us for decades that extreme weather events will increase in number. And they have; just ask the insurance companies.

They report a 650 per cent increase in damages caused by extreme weather events between 2009 and 2012 and the trend is upward.

If we run out of water in Parksville it will be further proof of the ecological illiteracy of our local governments.

During recent public input to official community plans (OCPs) and sustainability plans, ecologically-minded organizations encouraged local governments to determine our regional carrying capacity in order to be able meet basic needs, such as water, in times of stress, such as now.

But these suggestions were deemed unimportant and ignored.

As a result, our communities are still not moving in a sustainable direction, despite the green-speak in their planning documents.

Qualicum Beach perhaps comes closest with its OCP vision statement that projects a potential capacity of approximately 12,000 people.

This sounds like a genuine attempt at setting a limit as opposed to the garden variety — and temporary — urban containment boundary that eventually is expanded.

We shall see if their future councils have the ecological sense and courage to make it stick.

In the meantime, if we turn on our taps in Parksville this August and find there’s no water, it won’t be because of the drought. It will be because our local governments chose to ignore basic ecological principles in favour of land use planning policies and zoning decisions to accommodate a population that exceeds the carrying capacity of our local ecosystems.

Neil DaweParksville

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