Zebra mussels: scarier than Jurassic Park.

The Don't Move a Mussel muscle shirts have been a big hit.

“They’ll clump on rock, they’ll clump in pipe, and they’ll clump mussel-next-to-mussel-atop-mussel in astonishing congregations of as many as 70,000 individuals a square foot” – Sue McGrath

It’s hard to get people excited about invisible threats that haven’t arrived yet, but sometimes that’s what you have to do.

Let’s make a list of undesirable things: salmon extinctions, toxic algae blooms, beach closures, clogged water intakes and storm drains, botulism toxin… The unpleasantries associated with the small but numerous zebra and quagga mussels are many and varied. Continue reading

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Weddings, weird weather, and where to fit everyone

Do not compute the totality of your poultry population until all the manifestations of incubation have been entirely completed.” – William Jennings Bryan

I’m calling 2012 “the year of weddings and babies” – there are dozens popping up on my facebook.  It’s also the year of the dragon, and my friend from China says many couples purposely plan and wait to have “dragon babies.” There’s a feeling of exuberance in the air.

Flower girl Noli, at a June wedding.

And so, with celebration, the population grows. Much has been written about global carrying capacity, but we are human, here and now.

Where will everyone live? Some are moving here – BC Stats says 45% more for the Central Okanagan by 2036 – maybe 70,000 or 80,000 new people. Other regional districts may grow more slowly, but this seems like a good proxy for growth up and down the urban core of the valley.

It’s a beautiful place to be. We actively try to attract young families and workers; and the retirees come with little coaxing. It’s part of a great global migration.

And what about the water? This year there is no lack of rain, but it always pays to be thoughtful about essential resources. As we have more people, we’ll need more clean drinking water, and more fresh fruit and vegetables.We’ll have more neighbours to feel the effects of floods and shortages, and more of us will be out hiking and biking in the watershed. We’ll have bigger demands for lumber and gravel, more boats on the lake, more everything. Continue reading

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Lift a long, cool glass of gratitude

It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.” – Dan Quayle

Crammed in a cab with Bob Sanford and David Brooks, listening to adventure stories about Middle East river agreements.  I jumped in with one of my few international water anecdotes. “An Ethiopian hydrologist told me that water security – for them – is five litres a day, per person, within a three kilometre walking distance.”

A Kenyan farmer, building a catchment for her water supply. Photo credit: Eva Kaye-Zwiebe

The driver gave a derisive cough. “That guy must have been from the countryside,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m from Addis Ababa. We used at least six litres, and we didn’t have to walk for it.”

Strolling from kitchen to bathroom, I might use 100 litres of pure, fresh water a day without giving a second thought. If I wander out and turn on my sprinklers, that might go to 1000. And I’m average!

Let’s raise a glass to drinking water: so cheap, so abundant, we wash our cars with it. If it weren’t for the empty plastic bottles lying around, water would be almost invisible.

Back at home, I asked some guys next to me at a restaurant what they thought about drinking water. “We don’t think about it. We don’t want to. We just want to be able to get it.” Tommy and Ken were executives from the auto industry, and after some discussion, they admitted to being skeptical about climate change, but aware there were problems out there. “Without water there’s no life. Look at the Dead Sea, it’s dying!” Continue reading

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