Everyone knows that climate change and water conservation are hot topics these days. But how many people know about what’s going on in their own community? Sometimes literally in their own backyards.
Water is one of our most precious resources and conserving it is essential for both our environment and our wallets. With droughts becoming more common globally and Airdrie’s population growing – the average Airdrie resident used 254 litres of water per day in 2022, the equivalent of two full bathtubs of water per person every day! – it’s important that everyone do their part to conserve water.
One of the easiest ways you can help this summer is by following the lawn-watering schedule set out by the City. It’s suggested you water no more than three times a week in the early morning or late evening to reduce evaporation (even addresses on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday; odd addresses on Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday). During the spring and fall, water no more than twice a week
With summer here, airdrielife asked City of Airdrie water operations program coordinator Jennifer Sugden and Parks department team leader Phil McNeil about the City’s water conservation efforts.
Q: Why is your department focusing on water conservation this summer?
JS: Water Services is in the business of providing water to the residents of Airdrie. We have focused on water conservation since 2017, when we first started working on the Water Conservation, Efficiency and Productivity Plan. We want to ensure residents have the information they need about our system.
PM: Creating a sustainable community is very important to the Parks department. As water is a limited resource, we must be diligent when using it to maintain our green spaces.
Q: What about water conservation is important for your department?
JS: Water conservation can have an impact on how we fill our reservoirs. The higher the water demand, the greater the fill rate to keep up. Water services has a proactive leak detection program deployed throughout the city, trying to catch the leaks you can’t see.
PM: As a Parks department, we must be a leader in water conservation and demonstrate responsible water usage. The use of water is required to maintain sports fields and other high-quality turf areas, trees and other plant materials. To continue to protect this resource and to continue to have the ability to utilize water in these areas, it is important that we use water wisely.
Q: How does conservation help the community? Help The City of Airdrie?
JS: The most significant impact of water conservation would be cost savings on your water bill. By reducing your water consumption, you save money. Knowing you are helping protect the water supply that we all have come to enjoy. Managing our water consumption smartly (i.e., water conservation practices- leak detection, stormwater irrigation, changing fixtures to low flow as they need to be replaced, etc.) as the city grows will help keep our water demands from Calgary in check.
PM: As our potable water comes from the Bow and Elbow Rivers, reducing the amount of water taken from these rivers will help improve the overall health of these rivers. As our water is purchased from Calgary, water conservation measures will help reduce future infrastructure upgrades. Ultimately water conservation affects everyone.
Q: What is your department doing this summer to promote water conservation?
JS: Rain barrels are for sale on the website year-round for Airdrie and surrounding area residents for $65 (non-residents can purchase them for $75). Water Services will attend several events to showcase information: the Children’s Festival, the Airdrie Farmer’s Market and AirdrieFest. We are also in the process of setting up a speaker series on some garden topics that relate to water conservation.
PM: The Parks Department utilizes a central irrigation that can automatically adjust and suspend irrigation based on weather conditions. The water at the splash park recirculates and is treated, significantly reducing water use. This year we will harvest rainwater (we have two 2500-gallon tanks located at 23 East Lake Hill) that will be used to supplement the watering of the floral displays in the community. Flower planters with water reservoirs that allow the plants to self-water will save water as they eliminate water run-off.
Q: What water conservation tricks and tips can you share with the community and residents?
JS: Even little drips around the house can add to a big water bill. Try taking the leaky toilet test, load up your dishwasher instead of hand washing a couple of dishes each time and scrape your words into the organics cart instead of rinsing them. Outside, use a rain barrel to collect water to water plants, avoid watering during the hottest part of the day (9 a.m. – 7 p.m.), and mulch your grass instead of putting it in the green bin (this will help the lawn retain moisture).
PM: Healthy turf is better able to withstand periods of drought and other stresses. Aerating and top-dressing your lawn will help prevent water from running off and allow the turf to absorb and use the water better. Top dressing spreads a quarter to a half inch of compost evenly on the lawn. It is best to do this after aerating. Look for native plant material when adding to your yard. These plants tend to be lower in maintenance and have fewer requirements for water. Look for zone 3 plants.
Q: What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about water conservation?
JS: Freshwater is one of the most essential natural resources on our planet. It’s imperative to take an integrated, sustainable approach, consider the world’s water cycle, and consider freshwater usage and conservation.
PM: Everyone’s contribution- no matter how small can make a difference. Changes such as selecting the correct plant material and not watering your lawn in the middle of the day can impact water conservation. Fescue grass can be used as an alternative to traditional grass; it is much lower maintenance and requires much less water. Parks has started incorporating fescue grass in some less-maintained parks throughout the city.
Q: Where do people go for more information?
JS: People can go to www.airdrie.ca/waterconservation for more info.
PM: The city website has some good information; local plant nurseries are an excellent resource for selecting plants that do well in our community.