New plan for water conservation

Okotoks: Water use continued to drop in 2013

By: By Jessica Patterson

  |  Posted: Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 06:00 am

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Water use in Okotoks continued to drop in 2013 and the Town is looking to build on its record with a new conservation plan.

Okotoks’ overall water use dropped in 2013, to 273 litres per person per day, from last year’s consumption of 316 per person per day.

The new Water Conservation, Efficiency and Productivity (CEP) Plan presented to town council Monday afternoon will ensure the Town has enough water for the growing community, while maintaining aquatic systems in the Sheep River, extending the life of the current water infrastructure and deferring the cost of new waterworks.

Over the last decade, while the Town’s population doubled in size, it’s water consumption actually declined by 33 per cent.

Dawn Smith, the Town’s sustainability coordinator, says the goal for 2014 is to consume less than 285 litres of water per person per day. Currently, 85 per cent of Okotoks’ water use is residential.

“In 2012, we found quite a large leak and when we repaired that, it brought the number down a lot,” Smith said. “2013 was a wet year, so obviously water use for irrigation was a lot lower, and that’s why we were hesitant to drop that target super low, because we weren’t sure what next year was going to bring.”

Most of the growth opportunity for water conservation is in the commercial and industrial sector, she said. The new conservation plan lists strategies to help ensure the efficient collection, treatment, distribution and sustainable end-use of the Town’s potable water supply. Short-term targets include hitting the gross water consumption rate of 285 litres per person per day, striving to continually reduce that rate, working towards a target for watermain leaks of five per cent or less and reducing amount of energy consumed per litre of water supplied by the Town.

With the water licenses Okotoks currently holds, and gross water consumption holding steady at 285 litres per capita per day, the Town would be able to achieve enough water for 29,918 people, the report said. Smith said there are still some initiatives that could bring water use down further.

“I think with residential, we’ve squeezed it pretty tight,” Smith said. “There’s always rainwater harvesting, which we want to promote long-term. You can use a larger scale rainwater harvesting on residential instead of just a rainbarrel, because in a heavy rain event those fill up pretty quick.”

The Town encourages residents to replace older model toilets that often waste up to 13 litres of water per flush. Newer models are more efficient, using six litres or less, and residents who switch to low-flush models may save up to 60,000 litres per year and be eligible for a rebate through the Town. Other options include using low-flow shower heads, high-efficiency washing machines, rain barrels, insulating water pipes and using instant water heaters on kitchen sinks.

Mayor Bill Robertson follows many of these practices to conserve water at his home, such as using an above-ground tank for rainwater harvesting in his own yard.

“I was able to water my lawn using harvested rain water and I didn’t need any Town water this summer,” he said. “I was treating the rainwater like gold. Through the summer, I filled my cistern from rainwater. When it’s full, it’s gravity-fed and I get a four-foot spread off the sprinkler.”

Robertson said he believe an even more aggressive approach to water conservation could reduce water consumption in town even further to 275 litres per person per day.

“It’s a lofty goal,” he said. “In 2000, 275 litres per person per day would have been out of sight. Given the measures we put in place since then, under 300 is a goal and achievable.

“I would be in favour of putting out 275 litres per day as a challenge to the people, because if we could achieve that over three years, that would free up 10 litres per person.”

A long term solution for Okotoks’ water shortage is on the horizon. Getting a pipeline from Calgary may be a multi-year process. That said, the Town’s immediate short-term solution includes downstream water license transfers to bridge the gap after growth beyond 30,000, the report said.

Conservation initiatives will stay in place if Okotoks approves a pipeline from Calgary in the future, Smith says.

“Just because we have additional water, doesn’t mean we should be consuming it at fast rates. All the measures will stay the same.”

She said she didn’t think residents realize there may be an increased cost with using that water. “So, the less of it we can use, the better, and we’re going to achieve that through conservation measures,” she said.

Okotoks may have to use water from a Calgary pipeline at some point in the future, but Smith cautioned against thinking the additional water would free up consumption rates.

“People have to realize it would be like an additional tap we can turn on, not like opening flood gates,” Smith said.

Coun. Ken Heemeryck believes conservation will continue to be a key feature that defines Okotoks even if a pipeline from Calgary is approved.

“The Town, regardless of where we get our water from, and even as we grow, we’ll always have water conservation as one of our key features,” he said. “We’d probably try to educate the whole region on water conservation then, Calgary included.”


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