Vernon was one of the first cities in Western Canada to implement a comprehensive water-use efficiency program, including universal metering and conservation retrofits, a volume-based rate structure, toilet replacement rebates, and public education.
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.
A B.C. Water Conservation Survey conducted by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the BCWWA’s Water Sustainability Committee shows that 48 percent of utilities have recently upgraded their computer systems, while 19 percent are considering doing so. Not surprisingly, the main stumbling block is cost, with the majority of utilities looking for grants and funding from senior levels of government.
The 2004 Water Conservation Survey—conducted by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the Water Sustainability Committee of the B.C. Water and Waste Association—showed that only 29 percent of water utilities are using performance measures to determine if they are achieving their water conservation objectives. Of note, though, is that almost half of those not using performance measures are considering doing so in the future.