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Water Will Be the Issue of Our Time: Inside View

If all else fails, you could just make your own water.

July 11, 2016  By Gary Jones

August 2016 – It’s that time of year again already. Except it’s not! Level 1 water restrictions came into effect in Metro Vancouver on May 15, two weeks earlier than in previous years, the result of requiring Level 3 restrictions last summer for the first time since 2003.

Added to this, the new B.C. Water Sustainability Act (WSA) was brought into force on Feb. 29 (as briefly noted in a previous “Inside View”). The WSA updates and replaces the previous B.C. Water Act, bringing in a number of important changes for existing and new surface water and groundwater users. 1

So, what’s horticulture to do?


First off is something we’ve mentioned before and greenhouse vegetable growers may already have tried. CubeCap® is a simple plastic “cap” placed on top of grow blocks that prevents evaporation and reduces algae growth. A unique, patented propagation feature built right into the DripCap eliminates the need for drip stakes. Steve Gallo of CubeCap says savings of nearly 33 per cent of resource costs are possible. For a large user of water and fertilizers, that’s significant. To try this product, connect with Gallo at CubeCap.2

Or you could try the “Imec” (Mebiol Inc.) system. This Japanese hydroponics system utilizes small amounts of growing medium in the form of a thin film of hydrogel. Isolated from the soil, the system uses water efficiently and Japanese trials comparing Imec with coco-peat-based conventional hydroponic systems indicate one-tenth to one-fifth the usual water use and high Brix tomatoes, albeit sacrificing some yield.3

Taking a lead from the greenhouse industry, the University of British Columbia (UBC) has upgraded its food garden and replaced old, inefficient sprinkler systems with a new refined zoned system that allows measurable, more timely and accurate water placement.

Remember the adage, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

“A new $25 million wastewater treatment facility located in the District of Sechelt, [B.C.], … is leading Canada in innovative technology borrowed from Europe that utilizes the root bacteria from plants, located in a greenhouse over treatment tanks, to cleanse effluent.”4 The idea was to “turn a wastewater treatment facility into a resource facility,” said Sechelt mayor Bruce Milne.”4

“The Sechelt system consists of four underground tanks (each four metres deep) with raw sewage piped into the first where insoluble material is screened out as well as any grit flushed into the wastewater system. It then goes into the ‘Organica’ system, which is a second tank of sequencing batch reactors where the roots of the greenhouse plants extend through a growing medium into the effluent below. The plants (while they thrive on the nutrients in the water) do not do the break down but their roots provide the environment for advanced organisms and increase the biomass in the reactor. When you increase the biomass you increase the biodiversity and that is key. Sludge, along with any fallen roots, land on the chamber’s bottom. The sludge is removed, dewatered, and sent to composting. The remaining water goes through an ultra-fine membrane filtration in a third chamber and ultra-violet disinfection in a fourth.”5

With our existing glasshouse infrastructure, horticulture ought to be able to develop this further.

If all else fails, you could just make your own water. According to its website, Watergenics Inc. is a Canadian-based private company that holds the exclusive worldwide licence to the patent-pending Hybrid Atmospheric Water Generator (HAWGen), an atmospheric water generation technology invented in the Laboratory for Alternative Energy Conversion at Simon Fraser University in B.C.6 Watch this space!

  1. More information at BC Govt.:
  2. CubeCap, Steven Gallo
  3. Contact Patrick Bray:
  4. May 2016
  5. May 2016  

Gary Jones is co-chair of horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langley, B.C. He serves on several industry committees and welcomes comments at

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