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Time to throw water on policy

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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 06:00 am

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Despite advice to the contrary, city council is plowing ahead with a water conservation draft bylaw.

This action is, at least, consistent with Mayor Nolan Crouse’s belief that the city should have more policies in place instead of making “one-off” decisions. This council, however, has gone policy mad. It’s not hard to imagine council conjuring up policies for just about everything from a clean-car policy to a crooked-fence policy. The more policies council can deploy, the less it will have to think, rationalize and employ common sense.

Just over a week ago council voted 5-2 in favour of drafting the water conservation bylaw based on guiding principles, which include outdoor use restrictions and the city’s own use of water. The environmental advisory committee, however, recommended against going ahead with such a bylaw because it would be difficult to enforce and market demand is already moving toward water efficient fixtures.

Let us imagine that council passes a water conservation bylaw. Now what? What is council going to do about that inefficient toilet in the old lady’s 50-year-old home? If the answer is nothing, then why is there a need for a bylaw? There are hundreds of energy and water inefficient homes in St. Albert that are easily identifiable. Why have a bylaw in place knowing full well the inefficiencies exist and will be allowed to continue?

How will outdoor usage be monitored? Will the city have to hire more bylaw officers to skulk around peoples’ backyards to monitor watering activity? Will more clerks be hired to pore through our utility bills? Will the bylaw change how the city uses water? Would not a simple order from the public works foreman be enough to curb water waste?

A water conservation policy is clearly not needed. Society as a whole has become more water and energy conscious, and the improvements in technology over the last decade have made homes more energy and water efficient. Coun. Cam MacKay was right when he told council an education-based campaign is all that is needed to remind people to conserve water. A bylaw, as the environmental advisory committee pointed out, will not change behaviour.

Such a bylaw is mere window dressing. Council will be able to brag that it’s a leader in conservation initiatives because it has a water conservation policy. It’s the politically correct thing to do. But the fact of the matter is the bylaw is not practical, hardly enforceable and therefore ill conceived.

All politicians like to look good and getting behind apple pie and motherhood values is an easy way to do that. No one would argue against water conservation – it’s the right thing to do. Policy in this instance, however, accomplishes little. Water conservation is common sense – something council could use a douse of.


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