After getting a firm grasp on water use in your community, a good next step is to look at how water is administered and delivered. Changes to water operations and management can often have the greatest impact on improving water conservation. Included below are several initiatives that your municipality may want to implement:
A vital first step to conserving water in your community is to get a firm grasp on the state of your current system. Given the wide range of conservation options available to municipalities, it is a good idea to fully understand how water is used and what parts of your system need improvement before investing time and financial resources in implementing other initiatives.
A great method of getting the full, detailed picture of water use in your community is a water audit. Water audits assess real vs apparent losses, deliver a detailed water management sustainability plan, and provide system performance indicators. They are the recommended first step to improving water conservation in municipalities.
Loss control programs:
According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the amount of unaccounted water can vary from less than 10 percent in new, well-managed systems to more than 50 percent in older systems suffering from poor maintenance. Environment Canada estimates that an average of 13 percent of municipal water is unaccounted for. Performing a water audit will pinpoint where your municipality is losing water and how much you are losing. Once you have that information established, loss control programs can be instituted to remedy leaks.
A variety of actions, such as annual leak surveys and replacement of aging water infrastructure, can result in a significant reduction of water losses.
According to a 2004 national survey of Canadian municipalities, unmetered communities consume 75 percent more water than fully metered ones—467 litres per capita per day (l/c/d) versus 266l/c/d for metered municipalities. Metering allows consumption-based billing, which provides a strong incentive for water efficiency and helps the municipality recover costs, especially when combined with full cost pricing. See the Planning and Funding section for more information on full-cost pricing.
The City of Edmonton has been metered since 1903. EPCOR has an ongoing Meter Maintenance Program to ensure reliability of approximately 239,000 water meters. More than 90% of the meters can be read remotely which increases the efficiency of meter data collection, as well as the convenience for customers. Retail complexes are often sub-metered so each business can be charged for its actual consumption. This encourages conservation of water. EPCOR has also created an online resource that explains water metering to customers, including lessons on meter reader safety, instructions on reading meters, and other general information about the technology
Water conservation, efficiency and productivity plans
Municipal water conservation, efficiency and productivity (CEP) planning helps communities assess their current water use, its impact on aquatic environments and municipal infrastructure, and identify opportunities to provide for a more sustainable water future. CEP plans generally include a water use profile for the community, a target for future use, a summary of CEP efforts to date, and evaluation of proposed actions, an action plan, and a monitoring and evaluation plan.
While drafting a CEP plan is not strictly necessary to implement any of the other tools on this site, they can be valuable to help structure your efforts towards improving water conservation, efficiency and productivity.
Water recovery, reclamation, reuse and recycling:
According to the PolisProject for Ecological Governance, more than two thirds of municipal water use does not require drinking quality water. Reusing or recycling water for uses like flushing toilets, outdoor irrigation, or industrial use can provide savings of up to 50 percent of water use. Even more significant savings can be achieved with system-wide reuse programs.
Many municipalities in Alberta have undertaken action to reduce their water use footprint. The City of Calgary Fire Department’s training program utilizes water from man-made wetlands. Afterwards, the water is recaptured, treated, and then reused again. Strathcona County has launched an app for seasonal work crews that allows them to easily update information and perform better water management for spring checks, valves, hydrant painting, and fall checks. This GIS technology results in more efficient work crews, less waste, less water flowing, and less duplication of already completed work.
The Government of Alberta provides guidelines and regulatory requirements on rainwater harvesting and reclaimed wastewater here.
For more information or resources on any of the above, please email firstname.lastname@example.org