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‘Noticeable’ decrease in water use since Calgary restrictions put in place

Local climate group expects these kinds of restrictions to become the norm in Calgary.

Millions of litres of water have been conserved on hot, dry days since the City of Calgary began its Stage One water restrictions last week, and city bylaw has responded to dozens of calls.

The conservation measures have a local climate group suggesting that these kinds of restrictions could become more prevalent in the future.

The City of Calgary enacted Stage One water restrictions on Aug. 15 after drought conditions persisted and low flow rates on the Bow and Elbow Rivers. A variety of restrictions were put in place, limiting water use for things such as lawns or washing outdoor surfaces.  

In the one week since the water restrictions were enacted, the City of Calgary told LWC there has been a noticeable decrease in water demand. On hot and dry days following the water restrictions, Calgarians saved between 57 and 87 million litres daily.

“As the weather cooled savings have been less dramatic as Calgarians are watching weather forecasts and adapting their water use accordingly,” the city said in an emailed statement.

“We would remind everyone that it is early days yet, with more dry and hot conditions to come, and that restrictions are still in effect.”

While the city just enjoyed a 36-hour spate of rain, the longer-range forecast has a couple of 30-degree Celsius days tucked into a string of low to mid-20s. There’s little rain in the forecast.

Between Aug. 15 and 20, the City of Calgary said that they’d responded to 80 calls for service reporting improper water usage during the restrictions. No tickets have been issued.

Potential Stage 2 restrictions and beyond

The city’s Water Services unit said they continue to see dry conditions ahead and low natural flows on the Bow and Elbow Rivers.

To determine if Stage 2 restrictions are warranted, the city examines river flows, fire risk in the watershed that could affect water quality, current and projected water demand, weather forecasts and projected work on water infrastructure.

“We are continuing to monitor conditions, and if the current stage of outdoor water restriction doesn’t result in enough of a reduction in demand for water, The City will escalate restrictions,” read an emailed statement.

Rob Tremblay, co-chair of the Calgary Climate Hub, said they expect these kinds of restrictions to become the norm, rather than the exception. Previously, the City of Calgary said that they’d never restricted Calgarians’ water use due to drought.

In Okotoks, where they draw the bulk of their water from the Sheep River, they’ve had similar water restrictions in place for more than a decade. Only, they don’t call them water restrictions; it’s a watering schedule that’s been implemented by bylaw – since 2008 – for the months of May through October.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily my position or the position of the Calgary Climate Hub that we should have (restrictions) all the time now. It may not be, determined by the City, as something that we necessarily need,” Tremblay said.

“I think this is a future that we’re probably headed to headed towards anyway. Neither even more so if we don’t get our act together on kind of missions down to zero.”

The Town of Okotoks website explains why they have a watering schedule.

“Water restrictions, or what we like to refer to as the Town’s ‘watering schedule’, is about responsible sharing of a limited/scarce resource,” it reads.

“When nature restricts access to water, we adjust our use accordingly. Without a watering schedule, we treat water as an infinite resource.”

The city said that they don’t have a specific water reduction amount needed to stave off Stage 2 restrictions but would be reliant on a number of factors specified earlier.