Water conservation will be key to the future of Williams Lake’s aquifer, suggests a new water management strategy report presented to the city council and staff this week.
“Williams Lake can continue to draw from its aquifer to meet demands for the next 20 years or more assuming conservation occurs,” said Rick Collins, a civil engineer with Urban Systems, during the committee of the whole meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 19.
Presently water demands are the highest in the month of August when approximately 16,000 cubic metres a day is flowing from city wells at Scout Island, Collins explained, noting the usage should be no more than 13,000 cubic metres a day so the aquifer can be recharged.
“In climates where you have four seasons it’s the norm to see more water use in the summer months,” Collins said.
Applauding the City for pursuing grants to put in universal water metering, Collins said if meters are implemented then the City should begin doing mock billing for at least a year so residents can see how much their water consumption will cost once the billing is based on consumption.
“It is a safe thing to do because it allows you to get the kinks out,” he said. “It works out well because once you get that volumetric billing and you will see some savings of water. There’s communities that received 15 per cent water savings, just by doing it through volumetric billing and education. Conserving water is a better return of investment — the customers pay less money and it’s better for everybody.”
Coun. Craig Smith said council has already discussed doing mock billing for 24 months.
Coun. Scott Nelson said the city will not be able to afford the $5 million cost of metering and will need to secure a grant, but also understands that having water metering in place will make the city eligible for further grants to development a water treatment plant, which is expected to be mandatory in the future by Health Canada.
Joe Engelberts, the city’s manager of utilities and fleet, said all industry is monitored for volumetric use of the city’s water by a metre but is charged a flat fee.
Pat Mahood, manager of water and sewer, said in the summer the city will see its base amount four or five times up when there is heavy irrigation.
“Some of our users, such as Atlantic Power may be shut down so that puts them into the shoulder season,” Mahood said. “My understanding it that some of the mills may use more in the winter time to thaw logs for their process. There are ebbs and flows.”
Urban Systems examined the notion of recycling water for industrial use and Collins said it works out to be more economical to keep industry on the existing water system as long as the aquifer can handle it.
“It’s a lot of infrastructure you would have to put in,” he said. “Atlantic Power actually takes your drinking water and they treat it to a higher quality to make it work with their processes. If you give them grey water then you are going to increase their costs as well because they will have to treat it even more.”
The report also endorsed drawing from the lake as the most viable secondary supply option to address longer-term water demands and noted the aquifer’s water quality is influenced by the lake’s water quality.
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Collins said the City should expect to spend $18.5 million between 2019 and 2026 to replace one of the wells that failed four years ago at Scout Island, put in water meters, design a treatment plant and build a treatment plan, and continue key water main work.
“It will be a bit of a goal for the City but we want to time it with when there will be grants and show this is our schedule and we can achieve it except that we cannot afford it,” Collins said.
An open house will be held Thursday, March 28 at city hall to share the report with the public.