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Huge treated water loss through aging Revelstoke pipes

City of Revelstoke environment coordinator Penny Page-Brittin presented two Revelstoke water reports at a city planning committee meeting on Sept. 26.   - Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Times Review
City of Revelstoke environment coordinator Penny Page-Brittin presented two Revelstoke water reports at a city planning committee meeting on Sept. 26.
— image credit: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Times Review

Two new City of Revelstoke water reports were made public last week.

One shows it’s likely about half of the drinking water processed at the Greeley Water Treatment Plant leaks out through old pipes and infrastructure before it reaches users. Surprisingly, the report concedes potentially 75 per cent of water leaving the treatment plant could possibly be leaking away underground.

The other ‘source protection’ report outlines steps needed to safeguard the Greeley watershed, the main water source for the City of Revelstoke.

A third report on water metering is expected in a couple of weeks, but City of Revelstoke environmental coordinator Penny Page-Brittin was careful not to divulge any details of that report.

However, the first two of the three inter-related reports will certainly guide and influence metering recommendations and decisions because they explain the sources of water loss and steps needed to protect the source; all reports contain recommendations that will compete for city budget dollars.

(Both reports are attached at the end of this story)

Water Smart Action Plan

For the layperson, this 38-page report sets out some shocking numbers. An estimated 51 per cent of total system demand is lost through leaky infrastructure. That means after leaving the treatment plant in the Greeley area, it leaks out through holes, cracks, broken pipes, seals and joints before it makes it to your home.

However, City of Revelstoke engineer Mike Thomas said the measuring instruments are a “blunt” tool, only measuring gross averages. This means the ‘plus or minus’ on the average is about 28 per cent, meaning actual water loss could range from about a quarter of all water to nearly 80 per cent. The report notes this range of loss is within the average range for cities in the Columbia Basin and North America.

Page-Brittin acknowledge the numbers are high: “There needs to be further studies around mainly are we calibrating our meters correctly,” she said. “It is quite shocking to see that is average.”

The reports notes the city has already achieved a 20 per cent reduction in water consumption since 2009 through a variety of programs, but concedes a lot of that reduction could be weather-dependent – hot, dry summers equal more water consumption.

The report targets an additional reduction of five per cent gross water consumption by 2015 over 2009 levels. The 2009 baseline is 2.23 billion litres. The target is 1.67 billion litres, or a reduction of 557 million litres by 2015.

The report makes three main recommendations.

The first is the main priority; implement a “sustainable water loss management program.” That includes possible metering programs and infrastructure upgrades. The report finds that up to 40 per cent of current water loss could be recovered through this management plan if it’s fully implemented.

The second recommendation is public outreach and education. The report says public education focusing on print or digital messages are ineffective. Instead it recommends incentivizing efficiency upgrades. It suggests creating a student “water ambassador” position. The individual would go door-to-door to conduct audits and make recommendations – and could offer incentives such as a rebate for replacing an old, large-volume, leaky toilet – for example.

The report finds the city could reduce demand by 1.5 per cent through this program.

The third recommendation is to implement a water metering program, although the report holds back with specific recommendations pending Veritec Consulting’s ongoing water metering study. Their report is scheduled for release this October.

The report does say some kind of water metering will be recommended, but that doesn’t mean “universal” metering – a meter on every home. First wave options include better source and district metering, which means meters on main artery pipes to better understand where all the loss is happening.

At a Sept. 26 city planning committee meeting, Page-Brittin and Thomas explained the Water Smart Action Plan was done in conjunction with the Columbia Basin Trust. It is a prerequisite for further potential funding from the CBT.

Greeley Creek Watershed Protection Plan

Times Review readers will be familiar with this report, as it was released in draft form this summer; it has now been revised to incorporate stakeholder input.

The highly-technical report charts significant baseline data about the Greeley Creek watershed, including mapping its official boundary for the first time.

Under the B.C. Drinking Water Protection Act, the City of Revelstoke was required to conduct the report as a condition of its licence to operate the water system.

The report identifies risks to the watershed, and prioritizes those risks, making recommendations to deal with them.

It separated risks to the the drinking water into current and future, potential risks.

Current high risks are mass movements (landslides, mudslides), stream channel instability and climate change.

Potential future high risks are recreation in the area, including snowmobiling, hiking, mountain biking, ATVs, motorcycling and camping.

The report makes 10 recommendations, some of them of immediate concern, others needing long-term attention.

The report recommends an immediate study of the city’s back-up water system to determine what it can handle in a crisis.

Another immediate recommendation is fencing around the water intake and settling ponds to keep people and wildlife out. This also incorporates a recommendation to look at recreational and other access issues to the greater watershed area.

A further immediate recommendation is to develop a wildfire risk plan. The report says the water treatment plant needs to be protected from fire, and it also should measure wildfire risks in the watershed. It also references stakeholders including the politically-hot Revelstoke Adventure Park proposal near the Greeley watershed. The report states all local and provincial wildfire stakeholders, “including the proponents of the Revelstoke Adventure Park should consider developing a wildfire protection plan that includes a fuel reduction plan, with careful consideration given to treatment impacts on slope stability, and examines appropriate post-fire rehabilitation for the protection of water quality in the event of a fire.”

The report finds the city needs to coordinate an emergency response plan in the event of forest fires, avalanches, landslides or other major issues in the watershed. This is an immediate priority.

Medium-term goals include implementing water flow metering and water supply management.

Climate change adaption factors heavily into the report, including eight specific recommendations including a drought plan, alternative water source development, a potential hydro-electric/water supply system in the watershed and building redundancy into the system.

Other general recommendations include building a watershed committee, creating a flow monitoring system, blocking mineral exploration through a legal reserve, as well as creating long-term terrain stability monitoring.

Both reports were discussed at the Sept. 26 planning committee meeting and will make their way to council for deliberation soon.

***

Both reports are embedded in their entirety below.

 

City of Revelstoke Greeley Creek Watershed Source Protection Plan 2013 by AaPOrlando

Water City of Revelstoke Water Smart Action Plan September 2013 by AaPOrlando

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