Submitted by Columbia Basin Trust

Located close to Mount Robson and Jasper National Park, and a destination in its own right, the Village of Valemount is often on the route for tourists. With many overnight tours arriving weekly during busy peak seasons, tourists have a greater impact on peak water use in Valemount than the Village’s own 1018 residents.

There are two tourist seasons in Valemount: June to September, when traffic passes through on its way to or from the Rocky Mountains; and December to March, when winter adventurers descend on the Village to take advantage of nearby snowmobiling terrain.

“What we learned from Valemount’s data is that looks can be deceiving,” said Meredith Hamstead, Water Smart Coordinator. “At first, the data appears to show that peak water demand is caused by summer irrigation, but when you consider the number of hotel stays, a whole new picture of water use emerges and guides a more appropriate water conservation strategy.”

In an effort to understand the effects of tourism on Valemount’s water use, the Village hired a Water Smart Ambassador. Throughout summer 2013, the Ambassador inventoried water-using fixtures in 12 hotels. The results showed that hotels without low-flow fixtures used up to eight times more water than those with low-flow fixtures, and that as much as 2.5 million litres of water could be saved annually by replacing outdated and inefficient toilets with low-flow models in all hotels. Even more water could be conserved if faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads were installed.

This information suggests a number of possible scenarios. For example, the Village might consider a low-flow toilet rebate program, or could speak with hotel owners about other incentives that might get them to switch out their toilets.

This case study demonstrates that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all water conservation strategy. Every community needs to first understand when, how, and by whom water is being used, and then choose water conservation strategies that specifically address those uses and users.

The Water Smart Ambassador Program is partially funded by Columbia Basin Trust. The Columbia Basin Water Smart Initiative (Water Smart) is a regional water conservation initiative that provides support to participating regional districts, municipalities and First Nations to assess and address their local water conservation needs and plan for the most locally effective actions to reduce community-wide water consumption. Water Smart is working to achieve a 20 per cent reduction in gross community water consumption among participating communities by 2015. Learn more on Water Smart’s website.