Water, water, everywhere

Yesterday I witnessed a phenomenon. Through a scheme offered by our district authority, the Region of Waterloo, I participated in the annual Rain Barrel Distribution day. Through this programme local residents may purchase a high-quality rain barrel for a modest sum (about 1/3rd the cost of what you would pay in Canadian Tire or Home Hardware). The region has a single distribution day annually and, yesterday, it had three locations across the region where you could go to get your rain barrel.

Over the years the region has placed more than 34,000 rain barrels. That’s got to be having an effect. It reduces the amount of water that the local authority needs to process and that saves the residents money as well since we pay for our water use here. But it is also better for all the flower and vegetable gardens in the area to use fresh rainwater rather than chemically enhanced and purified drinking water from the taps. So, good for the region, good for the pocket-book, and good for the environment.

And yet the phenomenon I witnessed and have referred to was something else which felt very Canadian to me but perhaps is not unique at all. The distribution of the rain barrels was to begin at 7:30 am. I duly ensured that I arrived in the parking lot of the big mall north of town exactly at 7:30. I am nothing if not punctual (usually). But I was already late. When I joined the queue there were more than 800 people ahead of me. At 7:30 in the morning! More than 800 people had arrived before 7:30 am for their chance at purchasing a rain barrel. Nor did it take long for another 500 or so people to join the queue after me. And that was it. Once all of the application forms were distributed (you need to verify your address to participate in the rain barrel scheme) the organisers closed the line. And so we formed an orderly and friendly queue winding back and forth across the large parking lot of the mall. Children were laughing, friends were spotting each other at different points of the queue and waving, the ubiquitous Tim’s coffees were in the hands of the lucky few who perhaps had anticipated a bit of a wait. I chatted with the young couple ahead of me in line and the elderly lady behind me. The queue moved forward at a regular pace. And within 90 minutes I was up at the front receiving my new rain barrel.

I am left wondering what the motivating factor is that gets 1500 varied people out of bed to stand in a line early on a Saturday morning. It goes without saying that Canadians just love a bargain. So maybe that was it. Or maybe while I was out of the country living in England the environmental consciousness simply took hold. I hope that was it. But I have this feeling that we just love joining a queue.

Last night it rained. Just 11mm. But it’s a start.

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