The ongoing drought and a crippled water treatment plant have the man who runs Nakusp’s water system reminding people how important it is to conserve the resource.
“People should be obeying the water restrictions, that’s the big one,” said Warren Leigh, the village’s Director of Operations. “Please obey the water restrictions.”
The Village instituted Stage 1 water restrictions in September after the province declared a Level 3 drought in the area. Little rain has fallen in the Columbia-Kootenays since July.
Stage 1 restrictions call for a voluntary 30-per-cent reduction in water use by residents.
The village’s water supply became more precarious Sept. 26, when a UV-treatment device broke down at the water treatment plant.
“We’ll be down for a couple of weeks, to half-capacity,” said Leigh. “But we can get by, absolutely. It would take a catastrophic failure to have to order a watering ban.”
The three-year-old water treatment plant supplies about a third of the village’s water in peak periods. Two wells downtown also supply water to the community.
Leigh said the replacement parts to repair the plant are being ordered from the U.S.
Leigh said it’s lucky the failure didn’t occur during the summer months. In July, the water system’s nearly 800 users broke a record for water consumption, using 110,000 cubic meters of water.
“Compare that to a shoulder season, like April, when we typically go through less than 30,000 cubic metres,” says Leigh.
“So people are showering, laundering, cooking, and all those things that are essential for life, as usual. But in July we went through four times as much water on superfluous things like watering lawns and gardens, filling swimming pools, washing cars and homes, and washing driveways.”
Leigh says people have to be more aware of how they’re using water in the hot season.
“We will be able to supply water,” he said. “We can supply all the essential water required. But when we have problems, then we may not be able to supply that extra water.”
Leigh says he doesn’t think there will be a need for tighter water restrictions.
“I don’t believe so because we will get rain, I think,” he said. “And people aren’t irrigating, there aren’t as many daylight hours, there’s more recovery at night.
“It’s scaled back. If it was the end of July I’d be pretty nervous.”
Water use has dropped a little — in August villagers used 100,000 cubic metres — and the wells and creeks are still supplying enough intake. But Leigh points out that Nakusp residents use more water per capita than anyone else in the Columbia Basin area. So while the system has the capacity now, it may not always.
“I would like people to understand there is a cost for water, a value to water, and to use it responsibly,” he said. “And not just now, but in December and September and in the summer.
“Be aware it has a value and a cost.”
Among the things residents can do include:
• Limit outdoor watering.
• Not water during the heat of the day or when it is windy
• Consider planting drought-tolerant vegetation.
• Take shorter showers.
• Do not leave the tap running.
• Install water-efficient showerheads and toilets
Find out more about water conservation by searching for “BC Drought Information” online.