Water woes add up 

Squamish’s per capita consumption a fiscal thorn

click to enlarge From the Faucet to your Wallet Leaky taps are just one example of problem fixtures, all of which can run up a municipality's infrastructure costs
  • From the Faucet to your Wallet Leaky taps are just one example of problem fixtures, all of which can run up a municipality's infrastructure costs

Water consumption in Squamish is way above the national average, and, says Councillor Patricia Heintzman, the cost to infrastructure is unsustainable, especially at a time when the district is mired in budgetary stress.

According to Heintzman, per person/per day usage in Squamish is above 700 litres. The national average, meanwhile, is about 430; the national average in metered communities is 260. The cost of digging a new well, after all relevant work is completed, is about $10 million, she said.

She broached the issue during a recent strategy session discussion on the capital budget, saying dual flush toilets and water metering are part of the answer to Squamish’s ongoing growth.

Mayor Ian Sutherland set up a discussion date for July, adding that a staff report on funding procurement options for dual flush toilets throughout the district should be penned for September.

“Well, I hate to say it,” Heintzman said, “but I’ve heard this before. We keep getting support from council and staff, but a year later, we’re at the same place.”

In January, Heintzman tabled a motion requiring staff to draft a bylaw requiring new developments to limit faucet and shower flow rates, as well as toilet and urinal flush volumes. Further, the bylaw would require new construction to install dual flush toilets and other low flow systems. The motion, which was carried in January, surfaced again in February. Again, it was carried. However, the bylaw has yet to be drafted by the district’s community development department.

And yet, the district as a whole is aware of the technology. During this year’s budget process, the Squamish Library was given $6,170 for dual flush toilets and a new hot water tank.

According to Heintzman, most people use the washroom five times a day — three liquid, and one solid. Generally speaking, a flush involves between 13 and 18 litres of water, with some toilet tanks holding as much as 24. Dual flush toilets can go as low as three litres. The Town of Battleford, Saskatchewan, is also in a state of increased development. According to Mayor Chris Odishaw, the horizon holds 30 per cent growth, and infrastructure — especially water infrastructure — has to keep up.

“Immediately, we undertook to consider the possibility that, instead of adding 30 per cent capacity, we could actually save 30 per cent of our usage,” he said. “Just because Saskatchewan has lots of water does not make sense as to why we would continue to use it, and the costs associated with treating, pumping, distribution and dealing with sewage.”

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