District of Invermere considers getting WaterSmart

Program has saved billions of litres of water in communities across Columbia Basin

The District of Invermere may sign up for part or even all of the Columbia Basin Trust’s WaterSmart program.

WaterSmart representative Meredith Hamstead made a presentation on the program to Invermere’s council at council’s June 11th  meeting.

The WaterSmart program started several years ago but has changed considerably in recent years.

“We are not talking about turning off your tap when you are brushing your teeth,” said Ms. Hamstead. “It’s abut extending the lifespan of the millions of dollars of water infrastructure managed by communities such as the District of Invermere.”

Part of the program, the action plan, looks at ways for communities to reduce their water use, often pursuing a target of 20 per cent reduction by 2015. Less use equals less wear and tear on aging water infrastructure, said Ms. Hamstead.

The action plan also focuses on measuring and analyzing water-use data to identify and stop leaks. Across the Columbia River basin an average of 40 per cent of municipal water is lost through leaks in water distribution systems and in a few extreme cases in some communities municipal water loss can be as high as 80 per cent, according to Ms. Hamstead.

“If there are not problems with water use, there’s often problems in the infrastructure,” she said.

Several communities in the basin have already adopted WaterSmart actions plans, with a wide range of results.

Some communities have actually seen their water use increase, but most have seen it decrease.

The programs have saved a total of 4.195 billion litres of water across the basin.

WaterSmart’s program uses a basic but effective approach to solving water use issues: keeping costs down by using existing community staff and existing community resources, according to Ms. Hamstead.

Most communities in the basin typically see their peak water use in July through August, owing to outdoor lawn irrigation, she said.

“It’s fair to say the (WaterSmart) program has shifted since it was first introduced,” said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, after the presentation, adding that initially the program had a more limited scope and focused heavily on education about private water use.

“When WaterSmart started the district of Invermere was one of the only communities in the East Kootenay with universal water metering. Now that it’s not just about metering, it may be timely for us,” said Mr. Taft.

The district should at least direct staff to look into the program and see what benefits it may have, said councillor Greg Anderson.