Demand Management cuts consumption in Chetwynd and Fort St. John

Even though drought has been a concern in B.C. for the past number of years, a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the BCWWA’s Water Sustainability Committee found that just one in three water utilities has embarked on a demand management program to reduce water consumption. But of the utilities that haven’t introduced a demand management program, more than half are considering doing so in the future. The majority (almost 90 percent) indicated that such a program would account for up to five percent of their operating budgets.

Primary factors driving the implementation of demand management programs include costly infrastructure expansion and limited source quantity. Secondary considerations include public apathy and lack of awareness, aging infrastructure, urban growth, impacts on water quality, and the need for environmental stewardship.

The District of Chetwynd is one community that has embraced the concept of demand management. While not a large utility—it serves 1,125 connections—the advantages of demand management are many and will impact the community for years to come.

The district has always had alternate watering days based on odd/even addresses. During dry seasons this has even been lowered to two days per week. Last summer, students went door-to-door educating residents about water conservation and handing out $20 gift certificates for water-saving devices such as low-flow showerheads. Council has approved financing for a universal metering program, which is scheduled for completion in March 2006.

“We estimate that universal metering will cut consumption by 25 percent,” says Gary Kaulback, Chetwynd’s Director of Engineering and Public Works. “Not only will we save water, but money as well. Without meters we would spend between $5 million and $7million more on upgrades to meet supply requirements, basically so people can water their lawns.”

Victor Shopland, Director of Public Works and Utilities for the City of Fort St. John agrees that education and metering are essential in the war against water waste.

“We have an enthusiastic educator who teaches grade three and four students about water,” says Shopland. “We also advertise on radio and in the newspaper.” The city hasn’t had watering restrictions since 1992, but the residual effects are still evident.

While education is key over the long term, universal metering of Fort St. John’s 6,000 connections is expected to bring immediate reductions of 25 to 30 percent. “Metering will enable us to defer capital costs while saving a valuable natural resource,” says Shopland. It will also help reduce energy costs.

“All in all, metering makes good practical sense.”

For more information about Chetwynd’s programs, contact Gary Kaulbach at 250-401-4100 or

For more information about Fort St. John’s programs, contact Victor Shopland at 250-787-8162 or