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29th May 2015
City staff halt non-essentials, splash parks okay

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 06:00 am
By: Kevin Ma

St. Albert, Alberta is starting to run short on water after days of scorching heat, and city staffers are cutting back on their use as a result.

St. Albert public works officials stopped all non-essential water use on Monday after they discovered that the city's reservoirs were at about 65 per cent of their optimal capacity, said Leah Kongsrude, the city's director of strategic services.

While St. Albert typically uses about 10 million litres of water a day, the city guzzled about 34 million gallons a day from May 22 to 24, Kongsrude said – enough to fill about three bathtubs per city resident or around 14 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Water levels in the city's three reservoirs dipped below 65 per cent as a result – the first of three trigger-points the city has for water conservation measures.

“We're pumping water in, but we can't keep up with the demand,” Kongsrude said.

In response to passing this first trigger, the city has stopped all non-essential water use, which includes hydrant tests, sewer flushes, grass irrigation and firefighting training, Kongsrude said. Pools and splash parks have not been affected.

The city was not, at this point, bringing in voluntary water conservation measures such as having homes water their lawns only on odd- or even-numbered days, Kongsrude emphasised – those measures happen when the reservoirs dip below 50 per cent.

They are, however, asking people to be water-smart.

“We're asking everyone during hot, windy days not to use water outside because so much is lost to evaporation,” she said. Residents should also avoid non-essential watering during the peak use times of 6 to 9 a.m. and 6 to 9 p.m.

Lawns need only one inch of water a week to stay healthy, and are best watered between 3 and 6 a.m., Kongsrude noted.

The city will bring in an outright ban on all non-essential water use by residents if its reservoirs ever dip below 35 per cent capacity, Kongsrude said. The last time such a ban occurred due to the weather was in 2002.

Kongsrude blamed the hot, dry weather for the high demand, which was likely going towards watering lawns and washing cars.

St. Albert has received just 25 to 50 per cent of the precipitation in the last 30 days that it would normally get, suggests Alberta Agriculture's AgroClimatic Information Service. Temperatures at the St. Albert research station just north of the city were also well above 20 C for most of last week, peaking at about 28 C on Sunday.
Environment Canada was predicting rain next week that could solve this water shortage, Kongsrude said.