Water meters to help the city conserve

Despite the bounty of crystal clear water flowing by Whitehorse on a daily basis, more than $14 million will be spent on water projects over the next…

Despite the bounty of crystal clear water flowing by Whitehorse on a daily basis, more than $14 million will be spent on water projects over the next four years.

In 2011, $3 million will go towards installing water meters citywide.

“This was one of the things that was decided at the sustainability charrette,” said Lewis Rifkind of the Yukon Conservation Society.

“It’s great because in the long run you’re saving money and getting people to use less water.”

The city does have an inordinate amount of accessible drinking water, but it costs a lot to treat the water and pump it out.

And because of the way the city is built on different elevations a lot of water needs to be pumped uphill, which uses a lot of energy.

The city administration hopes that having to pay for water use will make Whitehorse residents cut back.

“We’re fortunate, if you look at the water going down the Yukon River it’s crystal clear,” said city engineering manager Wayne Tuck.

“If you go anywhere down south the water is silty, there’s runoff from farm land, there’s industry, there’s more vehicles … all those impact the quality of the water.

“We don’t have that here.”

However, standards have changed.

It’s no longer fine to just grab water from the Yukon River and chlorinate.

More groundwater will be used in the future, and $3.6 million will be spent on developing a new well.

An additional $4 million will be spent on expanding the Porter Creek reservoir.

Much of the Whitehorse water system is becoming obsolete as well.

Water systems are usually designed to last for 20 years.

However, Whitehorse’s pump house was built in the 1950s.

It is estimated to cost $3.6 million to bring the pump house up to current standards.

Green carts

Another item in the city budget that has the conservation society smiling is the expansion of the green cart system.

“That’s a really good idea,” said Rifkind.

“People love them, and you can divert a lot more waste from the garbage stream to the compost stream.”

The 240-litre carts were distributed to 500 homes in Porter Creek in June as part of a pilot project.

The carts are easy to move, because of the built-in wheels, and don’t require garbage bags.

After only 12 weeks with the carts, composting participation in the pilot area increased from 22 to 65.8 per cent.

“If we put organic material into a landfill, it tends to emit methane, which is a bad greenhouse gas,” said Rifkind.

“And if you’ll pardon the pun, the soil is so dirt poor up here that having a local compost source is great.

“Why pay to have it shipped up here from Calgary or Vancouver when we can make it locally?”

There are still six months remaining in the year-long green cart pilot project in Porter Creek.

It is not yet known when the carts will be distributed citywide.