Castlegar draws its water from Lower Arrow Lake.

The cost of water

Though Castlegar's water reservoirs are in little danger of running low, there are other reasons to follow summer water restrictions.

As it does every summer, the City of Castlegar has put water restrictions in place to help reduce the amount of water residents use, but many people in Castlegar may not understand that capping their water usage could save the city money in the longterm.

Peak usage

Usually the demand for water is four times higher in the summer than in the winter, which is why the city imposes water restrictions.

“That’s the demand we can really help control and that’s the peak that sets the demand on the whole system is the summer flows,” said Chris Barlow, the director of transportation and civic works.

Restrictions limit sprinkling and car washing to every second day, from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Residents who use a water regulating system can water between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

But this year, water levels have increased despite the restrictions.

In 2014, Castlegar used 19,710 cubic meters of water on its peak day and started reaching those levels in late July. This year Barlow says a hotter summer saw peak water use levels in late June.

Drawing from the Arrow

Castlegar draws its water from Lower Arrow Lake, sharing an intake with Zellstoff Celgar pulp mill. The City’s water splits off and is treated before being pumped into one of eight reservoirs, which are kept 80-100 percent full at all times.

Barlow explains that though drawing from the lakes means Castegar won’t run out of water, increased usage does put pressure on the system.

“Through this year we have seen times when pumping … [was] stressing the system,” says Barlow. “[But] we haven’t had to worry about empty reservoirs, other than when we have power outages because it impacts the pumping.”

Though there’s little worry about running out of water, Barlow does stress that increased usage has consequences.

“Even though we have a good water source, we’re asking citizens to conserve because it does impact our system,” says Barlow. “The distribution system can be stressed on this peak days, and plus … these peak days determine the sizing of the system.”

The size of any future reservoirs is determined by the size needed for peak days, which means that the larger the amount of water used on peak days, the more it costs to add to the system and build bigger reservoirs.

Water metering

The city is in the midst of implementing a universal metering program.

Barlow says the majority of commercial and industrial users have been metered and billed on consumption for a number of years, but there are still 213 residential meters to be installed.

Once metering is in place for all residences, the city will begin charging by usage. Hopefully paying for water will impact the amount the people of Castlegar use, and they’ll take action to keep not only their own costs, but the costs on the system, down.