The City of Williams Lake is applying to the Smart Cities Challenge competition for a chance to be awarded $5 million which it would toward a water metering project. Monica Lamb-Yorski file photo

Williams Lake taps into $5 million infrastructure competition

If successful in obtaining Smart Cities Challenge funding, Williams Lake would develop a universal water metering project.

The chances are much like winning a lottery, but Williams Lake is putting in an application for a $5 million Infrastructure Canada competition.

If successful, the Smart Cities Challenge competition with the Smart Universal Water Metering project, would bring the city one step closer to universal water metering throughout the city and to a water treatment plant in the future, said the city’s manager, utilities and fleet Joe Engelberts.

Launched in 2018, the Smart Cities Challenge encourages communities to adopt a smart cities approach to address local issues and improve the lives of their residents through innovation, data and connected technology.

There is one prize of up to $50 million open to all communities, regardless of population.

Two prizes of up to $10 million to all communities with populations under 500,000 people and one prize of up to $5 million open to all communities with a population under 30,000 people.

Williams Lake has already tentatively planned a universal water metering project for the year 2020, so it made sense to proceed with an application for the funding.

In a report to council, Chief Financial Officer Vitali Kozubenko said the metering would be an integrated set of meters, connectivity solutions and systems that remotely and continuously monitor water usage, diagnose problems, prioritize and manage maintenance and use data to optimize all aspects of water distribution and usage.

Additionally, Mayor Walt Cobb referred to the federal legislation that could come into effect requiring communities to lower levels of manganese.

Right now, because the city draws its drinking water from an aquifer, it only needs to be chlorinated, but to filter manganese it would have to build a water treatment plant.

“If we had to put that in it would cost about $11 million,” Cobb said, noting if the city was successful in obtaining the $5 million Smart Cites funding, some of the money could go toward a treatment plant as well.

Read More: Clean water and wastewater fund invests in Williams Lake

Engelberts said the city’s aquifer is constantly being monitored for levels and quality.

“The city has also had hydro-geologists in the past do reports on their impressions of the future of the aquifer,” he told the Tribune.

“They have given the City reports that the aquifer has indeed dropped since the City started pumping water out of it in the late 60s, but it has levelled off for the past 10 years and it appears sustainable at this time.”

A good part of that sustainability can be credited to the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society, said society chair Bill Lloyd.

“Thanks to our fee-for-service with the City of Williams Lake, the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society has been providing Water Wise education throughout the community, especially to kids in the classroom, who in turn bring this information home to their parents, providing the perfect education stream,” Lloyd told the Tribune. “Since our partnership began with the City of Williams Lake roughly a decade ago, we have seen a 26 per cent decrease in water consumption, a number which has been adjusted to account for changes in population and precipitation.”

Describing that decreased consumption as “quite an impressive accomplishment” for the residents of Williams Lake, Lloyd said the City should be commended for their leadership and forward-thinking water conservation strategies.

“This application is just another step in the right direction,” he added.

Read more: CCCS welcomes new co-ordinator

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