Regina's Water Conservation Program

Since 1985, Regina has incrementally developed its Water Conservation Program which has enhanced the city’s climate resilience to increases in water scarcity and drought presented by climate change. Regina, Saskatchewan, is a city of 200 000 situated in the southern prairies, the driest region of Canada. Climate impacts will be particularly significant for Regina because the city has little local access to water. Rising demand for water by industrial, agricultural and community users in Alberta and Saskatchewan will need to consider projected decreases in mean annual flows due to climate variability and change. The Water Conservation Program implemented a series of actions, such as financial incentives and water meter replacements that improved water management. Also, the development of a watershed plan included many proposed adaptation actions, such as considering climate change an integral part of source water protection decisions. In total, the plan included 82 initiatives within 10 broad categories.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

In the early 1980s, Regina was struggling to meet demand with its existing water supply system. Per capita water usage was increasing annually, and if unchecked, the city would have had to undertake costly infrastructure upgrades to increase potable water and wastewater supply capacity. In response the city implemented a Water Conservation Program in 1985. More recently though, increases in water scarcity and drought from climate change is posing serious risks. These impacts will be particularly significant for Regina because much of its water supply comes from the South Saskatchewan River. For this river, rising demand for water by industrial, agricultural and community users in southern Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan will need to be reconciled with projected decreases in mean annual flows due to climate variability and change.

Identifying Actions

The Water Conservation Program involves several components that have been developed incrementally over the last 25 years. These include: a pricing structure to encourage water conservation; Xeriscape; communication; and water meter replacement. Furthermore, the City provided strong support to community-based planning in the Upper Qu’Appelle River and Wascana Creek watersheds. In 2002, the newly created Saskatchewan Watershed Authority invited local people to participate in watershed and aquifer planning with the goal of protecting water quality and quantity. A diverse group of stakeholders that included farmers, rural and urban municipalities, environmental organizations and industry oversaw the creation of a comprehensive plan. The final plan, titled Getting to the Source: Upper Qu’Appelle River and Wascana Creek Watersheds Source Water Protection Plan, includes 82 initiatives within 10 broad categories. The categories include: 1) Aquifer and Ground Water Management; 2) Communications and Information; 3) Economics; 4) Governance; 5) Legislation and Policy; 6) One-Stop Services; 7) Research; 8) Water Conveyance; 9) Water Management; and 10) Water Quality. Many proposed actions dealt with climate change adaptation. For example, Action 61 states that “all stakeholders… consider climate change an integral part of source water protection decisions.”

Implementation

Actions under the Water Conservation Program that have been developed incrementally over the last 25 years include: 1) a pricing structure to encourage water conservation – In 1985, the City replaced its fixed price system with a fee for each cubic metre of water consumed. By paying for all water consumed, customers were incentivized to limit water consumption. 2) Xeriscape – In 1993, the City produced a xeriscape workbook that it distributes annually at workshops and on the City’s Web site. In the late 1990s, the City partnered with a local school to create a xeriscape educational and demonstration site. 3) Communication – The City communicates the message “save water, save money” – through brochures, Web sites, school visits, local trade shows, xeriscape landscaping workshops, as well as through advertising campaigns using local radio, television, newspapers and billboards. 4) Water meter replacement – In 2002, the City began replacing meters installed before 1992 with the goal of improving metering accuracy. The new meters have radio transmitters that relay consumption data to a city-operated vehicle each month allowing customers to link changing water conservation habits with their bills. In 2005, Regina completed construction of a second 57-km pipe from the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant to improve supply security. The second pipe means disruption of one pipe does not impact the entire water supply to the city, which enhances resilience in the face of climate change. In addition, “Getting to the Source” was developed by consensus and published in March 2008. The Wascana Upper Qu’Appelle Watersheds Association Taking Responsibility, Inc. (WUQWATR) was formed to ensure implementation of the recommendations. Their Mission is to promote and deliver sustainable watershed management.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

Regina has significantly reduced per capita water consumption through a series of incremental changes. In recent years, water consumption for the city as a whole has remained stable despite modest population growth. The modification to the pricing structure, which charges users for every cubic metre of water used, is the flagship feature of this successful program. It demonstrates that financial incentives, in conjunction with effective communication, can help manage demand for scarce resources. While not initially designed as a climate change adaptation measure, improved water management has helped increase the city’s resilience to climate impacts. In addition, many of the action items in “Getting to the Source” have been completed and they are now guided by a Strategic plan to help achieve further actions. These actions are specific projects to achieve the broader vision, which is to ensure sustainable, healthy watersheds. Recognizing its role as a key water user, the City is lending its experience and support to broader watershed planning initiatives that are addressing water supplies and climate change impacts.

Next Steps

Recognizing its role as a key water user, the City continues to lend its experience and support to broader watershed planning initiatives that are addressing water supplies and climate change impacts. The WUQWATR continue to work towards improving the health of the creeks and rivers in the watershed including a Wascana Creek bank restoration project (in a Regina dog park) that they are seeking funding for with the hopes of being able to improve the riparian area around a portion of the creek. This is an example of the shoreline and riparian area impacts on Wascana Creek as it is the storm water outlet for the city rainfall surges in our changing climate. The City effluent has had an effect on the intermit flow of Wascana Creek to a continuous flow stream downstream from Regina. However, storm water surges continue to cause issues and impacts. WUQWATR continues to monitor and advocate for improvements to the Regina and Moose Jaw water supply taken water from Lake Diefenbaker to Buffalo Pound Lake via the Qu’Appelle River. Again, an interment stream is now a continuous flow river with erosion and maintenance issues caused by increasing demands for water. The impacts of climate change are increasing demands for quality water and supplies for growing communities with a lower expectation on aquifer supplies. In times of drought more water is required to maintain the City and surrounding demands. WUQWATR’s board still refers to items within the original water protection plan as many of the items are ongoing. It may be desirable to have a renewal plan at some point in the future.


Understanding and Assessing Impacts

In the early 1980s, Regina was struggling to meet demand with its existing water supply system. Per capita water usage was increasing annually, and if unchecked, the city would have had to undertake costly infrastructure upgrades to increase potable water and wastewater supply capacity. In response the city implemented a Water Conservation Program in 1985. More recently though, increases in water scarcity and drought from climate change is posing serious risks. These impacts will be particularly significant for Regina because much of its water supply comes from the South Saskatchewan River. For this river, rising demand for water by industrial, agricultural and community users in southern Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan will need to be reconciled with projected decreases in mean annual flows due to climate variability and change.

Identifying Actions

The Water Conservation Program involves several components that have been developed incrementally over the last 25 years. These include: a pricing structure to encourage water conservation; Xeriscape; communication; and water meter replacement. Furthermore, the City provided strong support to community-based planning in the Upper Qu’Appelle River and Wascana Creek watersheds. In 2002, the newly created Saskatchewan Watershed Authority invited local people to participate in watershed and aquifer planning with the goal of protecting water quality and quantity. A diverse group of stakeholders that included farmers, rural and urban municipalities, environmental organizations and industry oversaw the creation of a comprehensive plan. The final plan, titled Getting to the Source: Upper Qu’Appelle River and Wascana Creek Watersheds Source Water Protection Plan, includes 82 initiatives within 10 broad categories. The categories include: 1) Aquifer and Ground Water Management; 2) Communications and Information; 3) Economics; 4) Governance; 5) Legislation and Policy; 6) One-Stop Services; 7) Research; 8) Water Conveyance; 9) Water Management; and 10) Water Quality. Many proposed actions dealt with climate change adaptation. For example, Action 61 states that “all stakeholders… consider climate change an integral part of source water protection decisions.”

Implementation

Actions under the Water Conservation Program that have been developed incrementally over the last 25 years include: 1) a pricing structure to encourage water conservation – In 1985, the City replaced its fixed price system with a fee for each cubic metre of water consumed. By paying for all water consumed, customers were incentivized to limit water consumption. 2) Xeriscape – In 1993, the City produced a xeriscape workbook that it distributes annually at workshops and on the City’s Web site. In the late 1990s, the City partnered with a local school to create a xeriscape educational and demonstration site. 3) Communication – The City communicates the message “save water, save money” – through brochures, Web sites, school visits, local trade shows, xeriscape landscaping workshops, as well as through advertising campaigns using local radio, television, newspapers and billboards. 4) Water meter replacement – In 2002, the City began replacing meters installed before 1992 with the goal of improving metering accuracy. The new meters have radio transmitters that relay consumption data to a city-operated vehicle each month allowing customers to link changing water conservation habits with their bills. In 2005, Regina completed construction of a second 57-km pipe from the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant to improve supply security. The second pipe means disruption of one pipe does not impact the entire water supply to the city, which enhances resilience in the face of climate change. In addition, “Getting to the Source” was developed by consensus and published in March 2008. The Wascana Upper Qu’Appelle Watersheds Association Taking Responsibility, Inc. (WUQWATR) was formed to ensure implementation of the recommendations. Their Mission is to promote and deliver sustainable watershed management.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

Regina has significantly reduced per capita water consumption through a series of incremental changes. In recent years, water consumption for the city as a whole has remained stable despite modest population growth. The modification to the pricing structure, which charges users for every cubic metre of water used, is the flagship feature of this successful program. It demonstrates that financial incentives, in conjunction with effective communication, can help manage demand for scarce resources. While not initially designed as a climate change adaptation measure, improved water management has helped increase the city’s resilience to climate impacts. In addition, many of the action items in “Getting to the Source” have been completed and they are now guided by a Strategic plan to help achieve further actions. These actions are specific projects to achieve the broader vision, which is to ensure sustainable, healthy watersheds. Recognizing its role as a key water user, the City is lending its experience and support to broader watershed planning initiatives that are addressing water supplies and climate change impacts.

Next Steps

Recognizing its role as a key water user, the City continues to lend its experience and support to broader watershed planning initiatives that are addressing water supplies and climate change impacts. The WUQWATR continue to work towards improving the health of the creeks and rivers in the watershed including a Wascana Creek bank restoration project (in a Regina dog park) that they are seeking funding for with the hopes of being able to improve the riparian area around a portion of the creek. This is an example of the shoreline and riparian area impacts on Wascana Creek as it is the storm water outlet for the city rainfall surges in our changing climate. The City effluent has had an effect on the intermit flow of Wascana Creek to a continuous flow stream downstream from Regina. However, storm water surges continue to cause issues and impacts. WUQWATR continues to monitor and advocate for improvements to the Regina and Moose Jaw water supply taken water from Lake Diefenbaker to Buffalo Pound Lake via the Qu’Appelle River. Again, an interment stream is now a continuous flow river with erosion and maintenance issues caused by increasing demands for water. The impacts of climate change are increasing demands for quality water and supplies for growing communities with a lower expectation on aquifer supplies. In times of drought more water is required to maintain the City and surrounding demands. WUQWATR’s board still refers to items within the original water protection plan as many of the items are ongoing. It may be desirable to have a renewal plan at some point in the future.

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