An up-to-date customer information system (CIS) is an essential component of an effective water utility business. These systems are responsible for a wide range of key business activities including billing, managing credit and collections, tracking water consumption, and responding to customers' needs.
Operations and Management
The increasing pressure on water utilities to meet growing regulatory expectations is well known. Customers are also clamoring for utilities' attention, demanding service, safety, and taste, and creating pressure from a different direction. Utilities' primary competition is the bottled water industry because of a public perception of greater safety and better taste.
In 2004, the City of Williams Lake undertook a major review of its water utility and associated management practices. The resulting documents—the “Williams Lake Water Conservation Plan” and the “Waterworks Bylaw”—identify water management and water conservation strategies that will protect and preserve our valuable water resource well into the future.
It’s the big thing in California, and is quickly making its way up here. What’s all the fuss about? As well as being attractive and less labour intensive, xeriscaping can reduce domestic irrigation by as much as 50 percent. Drought-tolerant, often indigenous plants are watered for the first year after planting until healthy roots are established into the groundwater table. After that, they’re watered very little, or left entirely on their own.
Developments and other disturbances in watersheds can have a profound effect on the quality and/or quantity of available water. For this reason, it is crucial to protect these areas, regardless of whether a community uses surface or groundwater as its water supply source. According to a recent survey, 45 percent of the B.C. communities who responded have a watershed protection plan in place. The City of Chilliwack is one of the communities working to protect its watershed.
The Westbank Irrigation District (WID) is situated on the west side of Okanagan Lake opposite the City of Kelowna. The semi-arid Okanagan Valley is experiencing high population growth rates and the District is facing increasing pressures as it tries to manage water resources. The hot dry summer of 2003 prompted the District to look at ways to reduce peak water flows and conserve water. Due to limited water storage in its reservoirs, WID needed to encourage conservation to ensure the sustainability of the delivery system. Water conservation would also help to decrease treatment costs and capital expenditures for the future construction of a new water treatment plant.
The recently completed BC Water Conservation Survey conducted by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the BCWWA’s Water Sustainability Committee, showed that only five percent of respondent communities utilized water reuse as part of their water management strategies. This is in contrast to many other areas of the world where water reuse is a significant component in overall water management plans. Water reclamation and reuse has been found to be a viable and effective method to conserve valuable resources, and should be given due consideration in B.C. communities.
The 2004 Water Conservation Survey conducted jointly by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the BCWWA’s Water Sustainability Committee shows that almost a quarter of municipalities that responded have residential metering, and more than half are considering it. Agricultural metering is being used in about 25 percent of communities, while about 13 percent are considering it. More than 65 percent of communities have metered their ICI (industrial, commercial, institutional) connections, while more than 15 percent are considering doing so.
As evidenced in a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the BCWWA’s Water Conservation Committee, leak detection is on the minds of many utility managers. Results show that 31 percent of utilities have a leak detection program in place, while 43 percent are considering one.
B.C. communities are constantly faced with issues concerning population growth, ever-increasing development, environmental impacts, water supply problems, and wastewater treatment and disposal concerns to name just a few. Current construction and development practices do not produce sustainable communities and inflict great harm on the environment. Clearly, if sustainability is our ultimate goal, we must alter our present development paradigm. Is it possible to produce a sustainable community and simultaneously satisfy the needs and desires of its residents? Many communities are finding that it is possible, indeed, even desirable to do so.