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Council asks for draft water conservation bylaw

Indoor fixtures, outdoor use, city's water habits to be included

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jul 12, 2014 06:00 am

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Council has to decide to have a water conservation bylaw drafted for their consideration.

The move comes despite advice from the environmental advisory committee to not bother with such an exercise.

On Monday night, council voted 5-2 in favour of drafting a water conservation bylaw based on previously provided guiding principles and including guidelines for outdoor use restrictions and the city corporation’s use of H2O.

“I feel there is a misunderstanding especially in Canada about the abundance of water,” said Coun. Cathy Heron, whose motion was successful. “I think it’s time we stop ignoring wasteful habits.”

Heron said she believes bylaws are required to prompt some habit changes.

The guidelines Heron asked for the bylaw to be based on were presented last September and included specifying the use of water efficient fixtures, applying them to new developments and major renovations and outline voluntary water conservation measures.

Advice from the city’s environmental advisory committee presented at the June 23 council meeting recommended against going ahead with a water conservation bylaw and their reasons included that the bylaw would be difficult to enforce and that market demand is already moving towards water efficient fixtures.

As for outdoor use, the advisory committee’s research suggested the change from a bylaw wouldn’t be significant enough to warrant implementing one.

Heron said she thinks just continuing educational initiatives is not enough, and that the corporation of the City of St. Albert should lead by example.

Coun. Cam MacKay questioned whether or not a bylaw was worth doing.

“I think an education based campaign could work much better than a stick in this case,” he said.

MacKay questioned whether or not council wanted to penalize gardeners for using water, and said a bylaw could mean going into peoples’ homes to see what type of fixtures they have.

Coun. Tim Osborne said he’s seen other water conservation bylaws that make exceptions for watering plants and other activities.

“It’s not breaking into old people’s homes to make sure they have a low-flush toilet,” Osborne said, adding this is simply about respecting the environment and trying to be leaders.

Coun. Gilles Prefontaine reminded council this is also about future planning, and the less water used, the less strain on infrastructure.

Coun. Sheena Hughes said she wouldn’t support the motion. She said it is unnecessary, and that people tend to conserve water because of climbing water rates. She also questioned a push for policy. “This council since it came into place has become policy happy,” Hughes said.

Mayor Nolan Crouse, who has been pushing for numerous policies rather than what he calls one-offs, noted there’s a plan from 2012 on this topic no one even remembers only two years later.

MacKay and Hughes both voted against the motion, while the rest of council was in favour.

Both Crouse and MacKay did not proceed with their own motions after Heron’s passed. MacKay’s motion would have halted work on a water conservation bylaw and Crouse’s was similar to Heron’s successful one.


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