The city will focus on more aggressively pursuing its water conservation goals in 2013 with a long-term plan developed and approved by city council Monday night.
Under the Water Conservation, Efficiency and Productivity Plan, St. Albert will pursue three specific measures for 2013.
One measure is a bylaw that would require water-efficient fixtures in new developments and retrofits. Another is escalating block rates in billing, in which water rates increase for consumers who use more water. The third measure is to target industrial, commercial and institutional clients to reduce their usage.
The city will also continue to use existing water conservation measures such as its toilet rebate and rain barrel programs to bring water use down to its target of 200 litres per capita per day by 2020.
“The plan is designed to help the city address a number of challenges affecting the supply and treatment of water,” said environmental co-ordinator Kalen Pilkington. “We can have measures in place so we are prepared.”
The largest group of water consumers is residential customers, but they are already averaging 200 litres per capita per day. When industrial, commercial and institutional clients are factored in, as well as water loss and municipal uses, the city averages 262 litres per capita per day, already down four from the previous year.
In fact, since 2006, the city’s daily per capita water consumption has dropped, even as the population has grown.
“That means water conservation measures are working, but there is still work to be done,” Pilkington said.
Requiring builders to install amenities like low-flow or dual-flush toilets, as well as more efficient shower heads and aerators on sinks shouldn’t be a problem, Pilkington said. Edmonton passed a similar bylaw in 2006 that most builders now incorporate throughout the Capital region.
“They are already doing it here in St. Albert,” Leah Jackson, environmental manager said. “Those groups are using water efficient fixtures just because the market in Edmonton is so huge. They’ve been doing it since 2006.”
Escalating block rates on utility bills would reflect a user-pay approach to water consumption, meaning households or buildings that use less water would pay less on their water bills, also a practice in Edmonton. The goal, said Pilkington, would be to reward users who consume less water rather than punish high users.
“We do not want to penalize the average rate,” Pilkington said. “We want to make the incentive rate attainable by a large percentage of the population. We want people trying very hard to pay for only what they use.”
She added that St. Albert would need to conduct a more rigorous analysis of the city’s water consumption patterns before proceeding with block rate billing.
Of the industrial, commercial and institutional clients, schools would be the most easily accessible, as the city can prepare curriculum materials and presentations for different classes on water conservation. Websites and other printed materials could also encourage industrial and commercial clients to engage in more conservation measures, such as water audits, Pilkington said.
Future measures could include harvesting rainwater and conducting water audits of city buildings, she said, but such measures wouldn’t be considered for at least another year or two.