Sun Peaks Utilities Co. is a privately operated utility that provides water, wastewater, and gas service to about 5,000 residents at Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops. Since the resort was opened in 1992, water conservation has been a major focus. The resort has implemented universal metering, made low-flow plumbing fixtures mandatory, and encouraged minimal landscaping in its efforts to reduce water use. Although Sun Peaks’ groundwater sources are reliable, so that supply is not a significant issue, the water savings that can be achieved through conservation reduce the costs of water treatment and wastewater disposal, and increase the number of housing units that can be serviced from the existing water supply.
A directed studies project initiated in January 2004 set out to investigate performance measurement of water conservation programs in B.C. and other jurisdictions. One case study of note involves the South East Kelowna Irrigation District (SEKID), where 85 percent of the water supply is used to irrigate crops. Metering these agricultural connections has not only reduced water demand, but has also made it possible to verify actual water requirements, both for individual landowners and for the district as a whole.
According to a recent Water Conservation Survey conducted by B.C.’s Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the BCWWA’s Water Sustainability Committee, the majority of water utilities are anticipating that population growth in their regions will necessitate system expansion.
The good news, as noted in The Role of Public Groups in Protecting and Restoring Freshwater Habitats in British Columbia… is that “there has been an upsurge of public involvement in the protection and rehabilitation of B.C. rivers and streams, and an evolution toward a more collective engagement in the management of these resources.”
Co-authors of the 2001 report, Dr. Marvin Rosenau and Mark Angelo, go as far as to say that, “government institutions, frameworks, and agencies at all levels in B.C. are no longer capable of protecting and restoring freshwater environments on their own. Ultimately, the active involvement of public groups and non-government organizations, rather than relying on governments acting on their own, may be the only effective way to save or restore many of British Columbia’s remaining freshwater ecosystems….”
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.