The Village of Valemount needs to buckle down on water conservation if they plan to reduce water use 20 per cent by 2020, according to the water ambassador report given to Council at the end of August.

Water Running from Faucet
Water Running from Faucet

The village’s summer water smart ambassador Kathryn Smith says the first steps to reduce Valemount’s water use would be to audit public buildings, especially older ones, implement a re-design of flower planters in the downtown, invest in automatic sprinklers and focus water conservation priorities.

She says the first step should be to audit every municipal building, upgrading to low flow fixtures and fixing leaks, so the Village is setting the standard for the rest of the community. The next step would be to look at older private buildings such as the Lions Hall, the Golden Years Lodge, the Arena etc. since they often have leaky pipes and toilets due to old age.
Smith says another step would be to install automatic irrigation systems in the public green spaces such as the parks, Village Office, ball diamonds, Visitor Centre, Library, Museum, and Cemetery. Although the initial cost of this infrastructure is high, she says the reduction in water use is significant. It would also save maintenance time. She notes it takes the groundskeeper 6.5-7 hours/day in hot weather at $19 an hour to water every park and flower planter.

Smith says the 5th Ave. planters are difficult to maintain and not spending enough time on them results in the main avenue of the town looking neglected. She says the easiest way to reduce time and money and improve Valemount’s look, would be to fill them with drought tolerant perennials, and a bigger variety of plants to make them less prone to disease.
Smith created re-design for the 5th Ave planters using water tolerant plants and xeriscape techniques; the village has not yet implemented the design.

In her community surveys, Smith says a common feeling with residents and business owners is that until the entire town is metered and people could actually see a direct correlation between water cost and usage rate, then most people won’t change their practices.

She adds commercial buildings and hotels are already metered, but the yearly results could be put in a user-friendly report so these businesses could keep track of their usage, reducing when necessary.

Currently metered commercial buildings are not charged based on their water use, the metres are only for assessment purposes.

Acting CAO Anne Yanciw says they will be looking at some changes in the coming year when it comes to water conservation.

The Village has received the draft of the village water metering study which they will discuss at council after reviewing it.

The report comes out of an assessment process put in place a few years ago.

“It has given us a great deal of evidence that it would be wise towards charging based on metering. One thing that we are definitely going to notice is that for a lot of people water rates would go down.”

She says there are some extremely high water users and the moderate level users are subsidizing those people. For instance, one hotel with 10 beds uses 10 times the amount of water as a 100 bed hotel. In other words 100 times the amount of water per bed.

“That tells you how significant the difference can be.”

She says in Calgary there was a lot of resistance to water metres but once installed a lot of people found their water rates went down.

She says higher rates for big water users could be an incentive for those businesses to implement water-saving technologies.