Since 2010, Water Smart communities in the Columbia Basin have steadily reduced local water consumption — and academics, experts and utility professionals from across Canada are taking note.
Water Smart is a Columbia Basin Trust water conservation program that helps regional districts and municipalities in the Basin address their local water conservation needs. Its aim is to achieve a 20 per cent Basin-wide reduction in community water consumption by 2015.
While the Basin faces the same challenges as other regions — including reducing water loss from leaking pipes and educating the public about conserving water — Water Smart’s data-based and problem-solving model has supported measurable demand reduction in the 26 participating communities, and the model is transferrable to other regions and utilities.
“Basin communities are becoming leaders in this area and it’s really rewarding for these communities to share their innovative work — and to have others learn from their water conservation successes,” said Meredith Hamstead, Water Smart Coordinator.
In 2014, the Water Smart team showcased Basin efforts at three conferences.
The first was the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments conference in Creston in April. Here, the Water Smart team gave an update and was pleased to find that elected officials are very aware of and supportive of the program. Elected official support for water conservation is an essential element of success in the long term.
In May the team attended the BC Water and Waste Association conference in Whistler. Here they presented to delegates from around the province, few of which were aware of Water Smart. The focus was on “water loss management,” an essential but often overlooked water utility best practice that reduces the amount of water lost through leaks in municipal pipes. By addressing this type of loss, Basin communities have achieved water savings ranging from 5 to 40 per cent of total annual supply, and have reduced infrastructure wear and tear and operating costs — which together support infrastructure resilience and sustainability.
Finally, Water Smart presented at the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation conference in Prince George in September.
“Part of the participating communities’ success has to do with Water Smart’s model of regional collaboration supporting local action. While our presentation highlighted case studies of success in Basin communities, two other presenters highlighted Water Smart itself as a successful case study for effective collaboration supporting water utility sustainability,” said Hamstead. “The work being done in the Basin has gained attention, not only for the amazing local water conservation outcomes, but as an example for how communities in a very large region can collaborate effectively.”
To learn more about Water Smart, visit cbt.org/watersmart.