Ashcroft residents are being urged to conserve water after consumption rose 14 per cent last year, costing the village $108,000 more than anticipated in hydro and pumping costs.
Yogi Bhalla, the village’s chief financial officer, said the increase was likely due to multiple reasons, such as the fact more people were staying home during COVID-19 and gardening during a hot summer. A total of 962,607 cubic metres was consumed last year, up from 845,967 cubic metres in 2019.
“We really need to focus on managing consumption, and we are going to have to think about what we can do to educate [people],” Bhalla told council in a budget presentation. “I’m hoping that we can get back into better operations and conservation this coming year and not have that bigger increase.”
The increased consumption put a crimp in the village’s finances because of new requirements to treat the area’s drinking water. Although the village’s new water treatment plant became operational in 2020, rolling mud and sand in the Thompson River last year meant the village had to pay more for hydropower costs, as well as the wear and tear on village equipment as it pumped more water.
“We had a lot of mud and that caused a lot of operational issues,” Bhalla said, adding the situation persisted for months. “We usually have a few days of turbidity. This was months. The 2017 fires wiped out the cover and a lot of mud came into the Thompson.”
Bhalla said council will be looking at ways to encourage residents to conserve water going forward. He would prefer to avoid potential issues down the road such as water metering, which could be mandated by the province.
“I’m not in favour of metering because that’s a lot of overhead in terms of how it’s administered, who takes the readings,” he said. “If we can get that from education that’s the best way to approach it.”
Bhalla said it would also be worth monitoring and tracking solar power to become less reliant on hydro.
Ashcroft Mayor Barbara Roden agreed it would be interesting to examine solar power and how much the village could potentially save by switching over.
Coun. Deb Tuohey said it made sense since “we’re the sunniest place in Canada, I think.”