City to test home water meters

Whitehorse residents use up to13.9 million litres of water every day. That's roughly five and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools or 29.5 million large coffees flowing through the city’s water mains.

Whitehorse residents use up to13.9 million litres of water every day.

That’s roughly five and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools or 29.5 million large coffees flowing through the city’s water mains and shower heads every 24 hours.

However you measure it, it’s a lot of water. And city engineer Wayne Tuck wants to use home water meters to help cut back.

“We do know that many municipalities are going to water metering throughout Canada and it’s shown water usage drastically reduced,” Tuck said.

Under a pilot project slated to begin this winter, the city will install between 20 and 25 meters on volunteer family homes around the city. The meters won’t lead to any additional charge for water usage just yet, but they will help Tuck and the city’s engineering department figure out just how much various Whitehorse homes are using.

“We’re trying to get a variety of family sizes,” Tuck said.

“We’re not trying to get people to change their lifestyle, but continue to do what they normally do and we can get an idea of what they currently do and maybe we can see ways of changing that,” he said.

“A single person who eats out all the time is going to use much less water than a family of five,” he explained.

If the pilot project is a success, residential meters could be made mandatory across the city, and residents would be billed for their water based on how much they used, instead of the flat rate fee currently in place.

City workers would be able to read the meters wirelessly as they roam the city without having to set foot on individual properties, Tuck said.

Tuck said it’s hard to compare municipalities across Canada because they all measure their total water usage in different ways. Whitehorse uses about 500 litres per capita per day, which covers everything from tooth brushing to water main bleeding. By comparison, a major metropolitan city like Toronto uses just under 400 litres per capita per day.

Two of the biggest losses of Whitehorse water come from the bleeding systems that the city uses to keep pipes from freezing in the winter, and dead-end water mains that create inefficient water circulation.

“We also do have leaks in our system. Our aim is to also install system meters as well and try to determine where leaks may be occurring,” Tuck said.

The city is also embarking on new sewer, storm and water utility bylaws to address the wasteful water bleeding and fix dead-end mains. When new water mains are laid, like the ones planned for the upcoming Ogilvie Street reconstruction, they will be replaced with pipes surrounded by coiled electrical wires. The wires will heat the pipes to keep them from freezing, instead of having to flush water through them continually.

That bylaw passed first and second reading at city council on Monday night.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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