Conservation: How far can water-saving efforts take Abbotsford?

City officials say conservation will not be enough to meet consumer water needs in the coming years.

Conservation is a key part of Abbotsford’s future water plans, but city officials maintain it will not be enough to meet consumer needs in the coming years.

According to the city, a new water source is needed by 2016 when, during peak periods, demand could exceed supply.

A proposed $291-million project to create a new water supply and treatment plant at Stave Lake north of Mission is the city’s preferred solution to the water issue. The project would include borrowing up to $230 million and entering into a public-private partnership (P3) to design, build, partially finance and operate the treatment centre. The city could receive up to $61 million in federal funding if the P3 plan is approved by voters.

Some critics of the new water supply believe a strict conservation approach could delay the need for a major water supply project. They point to a 2009 report created by POLIS (a centre at the University of Victoria which studies ecological governance). That study states that with an intensive approach to conservation – including sprinkling bans, tiered and increased water rates, rainwater catchments, low water use appliances – the city’s present water supply could be sufficient until 2031.

Tracy Kyle, the city’s director of water and solid waste, said the POLIS report was “theoretical” but did not solve the immediate problem.

“It didn’t consider the short-term needs.”

According to the POLIS study, the preferred scenario for the city was to make a “conservation commitment” which requires “a 45 per cent reduction in annual average daily water use by 2031.”

Kyle said the measures needed to achieve the POLIS goal “can’t be accomplished in a few short years” but rather over a 20-year period.

“People need time to change.”

Several conservation measures have already been implemented, but Kyle said, “we still don’t see the results.”

AECOM Canada Ltd., authors of the 2010 Abbotsford/Mission Water and Sewer Commission Master Plan, also concluded that the POLIS recommendations were unlikely to succeed.

AECOM noted “the Conservation Commitment approach requires a conservation ethic far beyond that of any major municipality in Canada or the United States. While the Conservation Commitment scenario is technically achievable, we question the practicality and public acceptance of this approach.”

So far, the city has managed to reduce daily consumption by about 10 per cent, well below the 45 per cent mark suggested by POLIS and only half the city’s current goal of 20 per cent.

Rainwater catchment systems have a good potential for success, considering the high amount of rainfall each year, but Kyle said the cost of the systems, coupled with Abbotsford’s current water rates, would mean it could take 15 to 20 years for people to recoup their investment.

“There’s not a lot of incentive for people to do it.”

Rainwater catchment systems are currently being used at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre to create ice with recycled water, and the city works yard to fill watering trucks.

Abbotsford Mayor George Peary said the POLIS report was more of an “academic study,” and making it a reality would be a “challenge.

“If we could implement POLIS’ suggestions, 100 per cent, we may be able to delay our need for water a few years … but I don’t think the public is ready to do everything in the report,” said Peary, citing the 2010 water sprinkling ban, which caused many lawns to go brown.

“I still have the scars from the lashes by the ladies in the garden club after our sprinkling restrictions.”

He said callers complaining about the ban called the measures “draconian.”

Carol Maas, one of the authors of the POLIS water report, said their findings were never meant to be a quick fix solution, rather a long-term strategy that would eventually allow the city to cut back water use by 45 per cent, over a period of more than 20 years.

But she says the lengthy timeline is no reason to abandon the approach.

“You don’t have to get to 45 per cent by 2016,” she said.

If the city can increase its conservation efforts slowly, at the same pace as its growth, then it is a viable option. Mass used Calgary as an example.

“Calgary is continuing to grow steadily, but its water use is flatlining.”

Simple to implement ideas, including allowing lawn sprinkling one day a week and changing building policies for new projects to include water conservation items (low flush toilets for example) can make a big difference.

“It makes sense to pick at the low hanging fruit to begin with,” said Mass.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

John Horgan meets with candidates Pam Alexis and Preet Rai and local citizens in Abbotsford on Wednesday afternoon. (Submitted)
NDP Leader John Horgan campaigns in Abbotsford with local candidates

Horgan meets with hopefuls Pam Alexis and Preet Rai on Wednesday afternoon

The website Chigoby is among eight scam online retailers that have been identified by the Better Business Bureau. The site was fraudulently using an Abbotsford residential address, but has since switched to one in Poland.
Eight scam online-shopping websites fraudulently use Abbotsford address

Better Business Bureau says victims lost hundreds for non-existent or poor-quality products

Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr provides an overview of the detachment’s year during the annual Crime is Toast breakfast, which this year was held online.
2020 has been a challenging year, says Abbotsford Police chief

Mike Serr provides annual overview during virtual Crime is Toast breakfast

MacDonald tweeted out this photo shortly after being sprayed with bear-mace in 2015.
THROWBACK VIDEO: Fifth anniversary of Abbotsford cameraman’s bear-mace attack

Retired ‘Abby Newshound’ Kevin MacDonald reflects on notorious incident back in 2015

RCMP officers cleared in killing of Abbotsford homeless advocate

Barry Shantz was shot following a mental health crisis at his home on on Jan. 13, 2020,

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

In this file photo, snow is seen falling along the Coquihalla Highway. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Weather statement issued for Coquihalla, Hwy 3, as arctic front approaches

The early season snowfall expected to hit Fraser Valley, Friday, Oct. 23

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

Most Read