Water Quality & Conservation

Water Quality & Conservation

Why Conserve Water?

Like many things around us, we seldom appreciate what is plentiful and easy to obtain. And what could be more plentiful than water? But think again — the water we use doesn’t just magically appear.

Treated water is a carefully manufactured product which appears in your home only after travelling through many miles of pipeline and lengthy treatment processes. It’s a valuable resource that shouldn’t be wasted.

We actually drink very little of our processed “drinking water”, around 1% of all treated water. The rest goes on lawns, in washing machines, and down toilets and drains!

Reducing the amount of water you use is easy to do without making big lifestyle changes. Even if the changes you make only save a small amount of water, over the long term it will add up. Remember, every drop counts!

Ways to Conserve Water….

In the Bathroom

  • Install water efficient shower and faucet heads.
  • Avoid using the toilet as a trash can.
  • Use water sparingly in the shower, turn it off when lathering.
  • Use only as much water as necessary in the tub, and plug the drain before turning on the water.
  • Avoid letting the water run while shaving, brushing your teeth and washing your face.
  • Check the toilet for leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If, without flushing, the colour appears in the bowl, you know you have a leak that needs to be fixed.
  • Place plastic bottles filled with sand in your toilet tank to reduce the amount of water used in each flush. Keep the bottle away from the operating mechanism. (Do not use bricks, which disintegrate after a while and damage the operating mechanism.)
  • Check faucets and pipes for leaks. Even a small leak can waste thousands of litres per month.

In the Kitchen and Laundry Room: 

  • Avoid using running water to thaw food.
  • Keep a container of water in the fridge to avoid running water for a cold drink.
  • Maintain your dishwasher and washing machine as recommended by the manufacturer, and always wash full loads.
  • When washing dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running continuously for rinsing. Fill one side of the sink with clean water for rinsing, or put the washed dishes in a rack and rinse them all at once with a spray attachment or a pot of water.
  • Wash vegetables and fruit with a vegetable brush and a basin of water rather than under running water.
  • Reuse water that vegetables are washed in for watering houseplants or for cleaning.
  • Reduce the use of the garbage disposal, which requires a lot of water to operate. An alternative way to dispose of your vegetable and fruit scraps is composting.
  • Install flow restrictors in faucet
  • When handwashing, put a stopper in the sink

Outdoors

  • Delay regular lawn watering in the early spring and you will encourage deeper rooting, have a healthier lawn, and cut down on mowing.
  • Avoid excessive watering. Most lawns need only an inch of water per week to stay healthy. Use a shallow can to measure this amount.
  • Water your lawn only when it needs it. Step on the grass, if it springs back the lawn does not need to be watered.
  • Water in the evening or early in the morning to reduce evaporation and avoid burning your grass.
  • Set sprinklers carefully to avoid pavement.
  • Aerate the soil in the spring and fall to reduce runoff.
  • Plant water efficient grasses, plants, trees and shrubs.
  • Use mulch around your plants to help the soil retain moisture and reduce the growth of weeds.
  • Avoid using your hose to clean areas that could be swept with a broom.
  • When washing vehicles, run the water only to wet and rinse. Use a container to hold the water used for washing.
  • Collect rain water in a barrel and use it to water your gardens.
  • Listen to the weather forecast. Avoid watering when it is going to rain.
  • Set the kitchen timer for 15-20 minutes when you begin to water. It will remind you when it is time to move it to another area.
  • Reduce the size of your lawn. Plant drought resistant ground cover in areas that don’t get a lot of use.
  • Adjust your mower to a higher setting. The longer grass will shade itself, thus fighting off heat and holding moisture longer.
  • Do not water on windy days. This prevents water from being blown to places other than your lawn.

Fort St. John’s Water System

The City of Fort St. John obtains its water from wells beneath the Peace River. Water is pumped from the wells to the pumphouse where large pumps produce enough pressure to move the water to town. The rate of the pumps can be controlled from the treatment plant and is increased as the water usage increases. The increased pump rate uses more electricity and therefore more money. On high usage days, the electricity for these pumps can cost up to $500/day.

The water is pumped to the treatment plant where it is run through large filters to remove iron and manganese. Eventually these filters clog and must be put through a backwash cycle to clear them. The backwashing takes time and water and so it is preferable to keep backwashes to a minimum, no more than once a day. During high usage times, the frequency of the backwashing cycles increases up to six or seven times a day! At the treatment plant, fluoride and chlorine are also added to the water.

The water quality is monitored in a lab at the plant daily and mineral, chlorine and sediment levels are recorded. Fort St John’s water quality levels are well within the government guidelines.

The treated water is then pumped to the two reservoirs. The reservoir levels and the rate of pumping are used to determine water usage. The reservoirs have pumphouses that help to boost the water pressure before pumping to individual houses and buildings. The pressure can be controlled by computers at the water treatment plant and is lowered when water usage increases to try to reach a balance.

One of the concerns with high water consumption is lowering of the reservoir levels. Because the reservoirs are so large, significant drops in water levels take a long time to reverse.

Once the water has been used, it is handled in one of two ways. If the water enters the sewage system (i.e.- down a toilet, or drain in a house), it is transported to the sewage treatment facility where it is treated. If the water goes down a storm drain, it is pumped directly in to the Peace River without being treated.

NEAT has run outreach and education programs for City of Fort St. John, City of Dawson Creek and District of Chetwynd. NEAT has water conservation information and tools available at the office.