Saskatoon residents are using half the water they did in 1980 — but here's why the city says they should use even less

Water flies from a sprinkler on a lawn in Sacramento, Calif., on July 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Saskatoon's per capita water consumption is just over half what it was in 1980 — but there is still a risk that the water treatment plant's capacity will need to be expanded sooner if the city doesn't cut water use, according to an administration report.

The City of Saskatoon's environment committee was to consider a new Water Conservation Strategy at Monday's meeting. It attributes the per capita decline to several factors including the use of water-efficient fixtures and appliances, the growing awareness of the need for conservation, and the rising cost of water.

The 51-page document "outlines a comprehensive and prioritized list of actions to reduce peak summer use, to ease demands on capacity-limited infrastructure, and to meet the community’s many goals including water conservation, emission reduction, water affordability, and capital-cost management," administration said in a report.

Administration recommends approving the strategy in principle. According to the report, water conservation has been a priority in Saskatoon since 2009, when an assessment of the Water Treatment Plant found water conservation will result in long-term savings from capital expansion deferral of water treatment infrastructure.

The strategy lays out four main reasons for conserving water:

  • Help households and business moderate their water use.
  • The pressing need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Increase water system resiliency and prepare for a changing climate.
  • Help manage water demand to ease the strain on the city’s water system

Saskatoon and the surrounding region’s total water use has remained constant despite a growing population and economy, but per capita water use is above comparable cities in Canada and other nations, the strategy says.

Saskatoon residents, businesses, and institutions use about 40 billion litres of water per year — which works out to 1,300 litres, about eight bathtubs, every second of every day.

The strategy lays out 31 actions. Some, including a $756,000 project to reuse spray pad and paddling pool water, which accounts for 13 per cent of civic water use, as greywater, are already underway.

The city would introduce programs such as a residential toilet and showerhead rebates and an income-qualified water fixture replacement program within the next three years.

Longer-term options include a water pricing and rate structure review, a residential water audit and coaching program, and a review of outdoor watering restrictions and bans.

"Water conservation is part of a larger suite of global changes in the 21st century, wherein societies refashion themselves to provide stability, security, employment, and enjoyment while drawing less from nature and emitting and discharging less waste and pollution," the strategy says.