In a recent interview with District of Barriere CAO Bob Payette and Utilities Manager Ian Crosson, the CAO noted how proud he was of District staff who worked throughout the summer to define and repair a number of water leaks which has resulted in “really tightening up the municipal distribution system for water”.
As Barriere continues to remain on stage 2 water restrictions for now and into the foreseeable future, how can this be rectified?
Payette says the District recently did the calculations, commenting, “Our total consumption of water divided by our population currently equals 500 litres of usage per day, per person.”
A number equivalent to approximately 10 bathtubs of water per day, per person!
”Of the 500 litres, 160 litres of that is what is actually being consumed or used inside of the house; showers, toilets, cooking, dishes, drinking water,” added Crosson, “The balance of that water (340 litres) is being consumed exterior of the house. The standard in North America is that one person maximum would consume or use 250 litres of water a day. The generic standard for a family of four per day is one cubic meter, and that would include life (drinking, dishes, laundry, tub time, kids), but not grass.”
“We had to do a report yesterday to the Federal Government on our water usage and the numbers and data is clear,” told Payette, “We actually got a little alert that popped up from Stats Canada when we punched in our water use numbers that basically asked us to check our numbers again – which we then double checked, and they were the same.”
He notes that the changing of the rate structure has been a help to educate and promote water conservation to residents of the community, but there is a serious need for water users to take a look at what they are doing.
“Watering lawns, especially with soaker hoses, are like having a leak in the system – and they really add up,” said Crosson. “People don’t realize how bad soaker hoses are. They consume over five times the amount of water that an irrigation system would use. The new low flow, drip irrigation systems that you can get are worth promoting. People can water their grass for an hour, or every other day, or once a week, and they would still have green grass. But those soaker hoses, you might as well leave your tap open all day.”
He added, “Another portion of the soaker hose problem is that everyone hides them.”
The average water consumption for the municipal water system in Barriere is between 5.5 million gallons to 7 million gallons per month. That falls from this time of year when irrigating stops, to when it starts again in the spring.
“That’s a steady trend – we have that data going back 10 years,” said Crosson, “We’re doing five, six million gallons – that sustains life, and sustains the fire department. That number goes up seven times during the irrigation season. In July of 2018 Barriere used about 35 million gallons of water, which converts to 133,000 cubic meters used in a month! That equates to 133 million litres of water in one month!
Payette says Barriere’s water report will be quite a bit better for 2020, “As most people are following stage 2 concurrent restrictions, and also the staff have found some big residential and commercial leaks that have been identified and repaired. Our statistics for this year are going to look pretty good compared to 2019.”
He notes that 2020 has seen most residents following the irrigation and watering restrictions, and they are also doing their part to conserve water and report leaks. “Staff have been working with residents to identify leaks and it has been very successful,” he says.
For now though, the water regulations are going to stay the same while Payette and Crosson continue to work on improving the system.
“Barriere has ample water for domestic use but for irrigation we have to be careful,” says Crosson, “Irrigation is a prioritized schedule. I am a gardener, I am a horticulturist by trade as well. Growing a garden is without a doubt something that I will be doing for the rest of my life and I promote that. But blatant eight hours a day of watering your grass is on the very bottom of the priority list. It’s nice to have beautiful gardens and flowers and all that, and I believe in Barriere you can do that and accomplish those goals. But millions and millions of gallons of water for green grass is just unreasonable. The communication process is best achieved as a two way street, so if residents do have questions I will take the time out of my day anytime to have a diplomatic conversation with them about the system, about watering, and so on. Getting that feedback from them is important. Questions such as “my irrigation system is leaking”, or “how can I better water my grass”. I am more than willing to have that conversation with interested residents.”
“We don’t want to go backwards, – we weren’t here,” said Bob, “We want to move ahead with the town and get it done right.”