Reduction in water use delays costly upgrades

Imagine if Nanaimo invested in strong water reducing measures, rather than into a new dam?

Our sprawling, growing city and aging infrastructure is forcing taxes to rise faster than the rate of inflation.

Today senior levels of government only occasionally invest in municipal infrastructure while they increasingly download social responsibilities onto local governments.

At the same time, cities are expected to do a better job at providing clean drinking water and sewage treatment. Nanaimo will have to invest in a water treatment plant in the next few years. Sewage treatment costs are also rising.

So it should not come as a surprise that during the recent public involvement in Nanaimo’s strategic plan a shift happened around the issue of our water supply.

Residents realized reducing the amount of water we currently use makes not only economic sense, but an environmental one as well.

Other municipalities have already deepened this shift. The Town of Qualicum embarked on a water-saving strategy nearly 20 years ago that greatly delayed the need for a new water supply, saving their taxpayers a tidy sum of money in the process.

The most recent club member to this strategy is the Greater Victoria area. Until 2006 its and Nanaimo’s residential per capita usage had been about the same. In 2006 it embarked on a serious water-saving strategy.

The results are a per capita water consumption drop by an astounding 30 per cent.

How has Victoria saved so much water and taxes?

About 40 per cent of our residential drinking water is used by toilets alone. The toilet replacement rebates help to reduce this, but are so small that it would take about a century to replace all of our existing toilets.

Qualicum and Richmond have followed the example of other municipalities and given out inexpensive devices that turn regular toilets into far more efficient dual-flush units, paying for the program by reduced costs (water supply and especially sewage treatment) in only eight months. Other steps have further reduced the amount of wasted water.

Nanaimo enjoyed significant water savings once metering began. Imagine if this city were to follow the lead of other municipalities and invested in strong water reducing measures, rather than into a new dam? The additional cost savings to our sewage treatment would multiply the benefits.

Meanwhile, kudos to Woodgrove Centre for replacing their toilets and harvesting rainwater from the mall’s roof, using it for their shrubs and for car washing.

Isn’t it our turn to lower taxes and be more sustainable?

Ian Gartshore chairs the non-profit Energy Solutions for Vancouver Island.