Posted December 2005
The City of Salmon Arm’s WaterWise program manager, Eugene Lalonde, can now say with certainty that “residents favour wise water use.” Findings from in-home water audits conducted during the summer of 2005 show conclusively that residents are becoming more aware of the need for water-use efficiency, and are more prepared to take the necessary steps to achieve it.
When the audit program was conceived, water staff expected resident participation of between five and 25 percent. From this, they hoped to gather critical data that could be extrapolated into a community-wide system analysis. They were not prepared for the overwhelmingly positive response from 88 percent of residents approached. Of the 1,139 homeowners contacted, 1000 agreed to participate. Given the in-home audits were conducted during the busy summer months, this response speaks volumes about the community’s interest in and commitment to water-use issues.
One thing auditors were looking for was leaky appliances. It is encouraging to report that only 16 leaking appliances were identified in the 1,000 homes. Homeowners are doing a good job in this respect and are to be commended.
There is a significant move in the community toward installing 'low-flow' appliances, especially toilets. (When referring to toilets, 'low-flow' is defined as less than 12 litres per flush. These are not to be confused with the 'ultra-low flow' units that reduce water use to three and six litres per flush, depending on the setting chosen.) The audits indicate that about 25 percent of existing toilets are in the 'low-flow' category. This suggests there is a move toward water-use efficiency.
The single most critical issue is compliance with sprinkling times and sprinkling days. Homeowners reported spending an average of three hours and 38 minutes per week irrigating their lawns and gardens. This is valuable information for water system managers. At present, regulations permit sprinkling twice weekly from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. – for a total of 16 hours per week. Effectively, owners are sprinkling for about 23 percent of the time allocated in the regulations. The question of whether 'twice weekly' is often enough or whether the 'odd/even days' approach was better, is still a topic of review and discussion. Water managers are aware of the pros and cons of each approach.
“Overall, the reduction in summer peak pumping volume over the three-year period of our conservation initiative is encouraging,” reports Charlie Ward, Director of Operations. “This suggests to us that our users are working with us to better manage our volumes. We know, however, that we still have work to do – on a number of fronts – to reach some of our goals.”
The most frequent observation, as one resident put it, is that, “I’m doing all I can, but my neighbour is totally disregarding the regulations – wrong day – wrong time.” And neighbours – understandably so – feel reluctant to “squeal on their neighbours”, who may very well be their friends. So, there is a definite level of frustration on the part of many who “want to do the right thing,” but are frustrated because their efforts are “completely undone” by their next-door neighbours. There is a sense of injustice or inequity in the system. And while the problem is easy to identify, it’s much more difficult to solve. Should we have water police? Would they be efficient and cost effective? Would water metering be more effective and equitable? Is more time required for the voluntary compliance approach to work? Year after year, water managers and councillors wrestle with these questions.
Of real significance for the city is the proposed water treatment facility tentatively scheduled for construction in 2008/09. When we have to treat all our water to a higher level of quality, the significance of our water-use patterns will take a quantum leap forward. We will have to become more aware that wasted water will be treated wasted water.
City council, water managers, and water users will all have to grapple with the multi-faceted issues surrounding future water use. To date, however, we can say with confidence that residents have demonstrated strong support for water conservation. For that, all are to be commended. We just have to keep working on making it work in real time and in real life – so that we get the best bang for our buck spent on water, now and into the future.
INTERNAL WATER-USE AUDITS
Report Card Highlights
- Program target: 5% – 22% public participation in home audit
Achieved: 88% of owners contacted participated (1,000 of 1,139)
- Internal water appliance leakage: 16 incidences in 1,000 homes
- Current ‘low-flow’ appliances (i.e. toilets): 22% (533 of 2,396)
- Average weekly sprinkling time reported per home: 3 hours 38 minutes
- Automatic sprinkling systems in use: 25% (246 of the 1,000 homes)
- Owner familiarity with operations of automatic sprinkling systems: 54%
For more information contact Public Works at 250-832-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.