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Squamish council considers motion to conserve water



A motion to investigate whether it's possible to cap Squamish's water supply and force conservation measures passed muster on Tuesday evening, albeit with the caveat that digging new wells should always be an option if water ever becomes an obstacle to growth.

Councillor Patricia Heintzman put the motion forward, noting that Squamish residents use more water per capita than the national average. She called for a "No New Water" commitment to "explore the potential of meeting all new water demands through efficient use of existing supplies and comprehensive water demand management and conservation strategies."

Heintzman pointed to the City of Calgary, which adopted a similar measure recently over concerns they are running out of water.

"Any time a new development comes up they need to find out how to save water using the existing infrastructure," she said. "Taking the long-term view, it makes more sense to fix leaks than to build new wells to supply water. And from the environmental point of view we don't have any idea what the impact is of drawing millions of litres of water from aquifers, and how it affects aquifers in the valley."

Paul Lalli supported the motion but was more interested in establishing a target for cutting water consumption than banning the development of new wells.

Bryan Raiser said he was happy to see the motion. "I see water metering as a complete no-brainer, even just from the fiscal angle," he said.

Corinne Lonsdale took a similar line. "It costs taxpayers a lot of money to dig wells and put infrastructure in the ground for new water sources," she said. "I don't think what we're asking is too onerous and it could save us, at the end of the day, a fair amount of money."

Councillor Rob Kirkham also supported the motion, but on the understanding that they wouldn't tie the hands of District of Squamish staff if new water sources were needed.

"We do need to look at supply and demand and how to match those... however, we do have a responsibility to provide water to residents. I agree we need to look at this, and the issue of leaks and reducing consumption if that's a concern, but we also need to not be closed to the supply issue."

Doug Race was the lone vote against the motion on the grounds that it might end up wasting staff's time if it has to be set aside to accommodate development or a new industrial water user. "I'm not happy to expend staff resources for a motion that is absolute in terms," he said.