Message beginning to soak in

In spite of being in the midst of one of the driest summers in recent history, Penticton’s water conservation program co-ordinator has a lot to smile about.

In six years Carolyn Stewart helped turn this city’s residents from water hogs into conservers, savvy to the way they use their H2O.

“We’ve been working on education with residents,” she said, adding that’s been done through the WaterSmart Ambassador program which identifies water wasters and teaches them the impact of their ways. The city has also switched its parks, school fields and golf courses onto a non-potable water and offered incentives like the Great Toilet Rebate.

“We have a community passionate abut the environment, and they don’t want to impact Okanagan Lake and the shorelines.”

The proof of that changed mindset came out in a recent comparative study commissioned by the City of Kamloops. In it they noted that during peak temperatures, Penticton residents used significantly less water than their counterparts in Vernon, Kelowna and Kamloops.

Specifically, that meant in the winter Penticton averaged 375 litres per capita, while Vernon residents used 340, Kelowna residents 380, while Kamloops residents used 380 litres.

During peak times, Penticton residents used 1,200 litres per capita, while Vernon residents used 1,280, Kelowna’s 1,300 and Kamloops residents soaked up 1,820 litres.

It’s a far cry from days past. Back in 2003 — a year that’s been compared to this for both heat and low water levels — total water consumption spiked for one day alone to 53 million litres. So far, this year’s highest consumption day saw residents use about 39.71 million litres.

And the average daily water consumption up to July 22, 2003 was 45 million litres a day and this year for the same period the average has been 35 million litres a day.

“People in Penticton do value water, when you value something as a natural and precious resource, you treat it like it’s worth preserving for future generations.”

While there’s been an impact in usage, Stewart said there are other issues at play that will continue to strain resources.

“As our summers become longer, we collectively withdraw that much more water from Okanagan Lake, and that will affect shorelines,” she said. “The City of Penticton is advanced in its water conservation program and we are being water smart, but we don’t have to drop the ball. It’s important to keep our water bucket full and we want to make sure that every drop pouring out of our taps is used wisely, especially during these next hot weeks.”