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Conservation delays water source search

Water conservation measures are a sound investment, according to Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan, who says efforts will delay the multi-million dollar cost of tapping into additional supply.

Nanaimo city council recently adopted a new Water Conservation Strategy aimed at cutting back consumption rates by 10 per cent each decade. The $16,000 plan reveals 11 ways to help reach the target, from an expanded toilet rebate program to an education campaign and more detailed water bills. There are also measures like a watershed forecasting model, new bulk water metering replacement plan and leak detection surveys – estimated to total $465,000 over the next three years. Another $10,000 would be spent on an audit in 2019.

Ruttan said the investment “pales in comparison” with what it’s going to cost to increase the city’s water supply, and the conservation costs could help delay the multimillion-dollar expense for another three to five years.

The city has been facing a need to bolster its water supply since 2011 when a staff report estimated that demand would exceed supply by 2020. That immediacy has since been pushed back to 2024.

“The longer we can hold off on doing that the better we all are as a community and the way we can hold off on that is to try to encourage taxpayers and residents of Nanaimo to demonstrate conservation as effectively as they can,” Ruttan said.

According to Bill Sims, the city’s manager of water resources, the conservation strategy reached its 2008 target of reducing use by 15 per cent per capita within two years.

Now, the city aims to see consumption rates drop 10 per cent each decade. While the number was exceeded between 2002-12, the city only saw a two-per cent reduction each decade since 1984. The 2014 Water Conservation Strategy says an increased investment and a commitment from the municipality and its partner is needed if it plans to dramatically reduce water use across Nanaimo.

One priority measure the city plans to roll out is an expanded toilet rebate program, which will extend to multi-family residences for a $100,000 annual cost. The initiative saved approximately 578 million litres of water since 2009 and saw 4,126 appliances swapped out.

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