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Nanaimo water consumption rates lower than indicated

Tamara Cunningham, Daily News 

The Nanaimo River is the major water supply for the City of Nanaimo.

Nanaimo city staff members are ready to set to record straight about water consumption, which has always been much lower than previously indicated.

Early findings from a $61,000 water audit show individual consumption rates are lower than historically reported at 260 litres daily.

The new information illustrates what staff members have known for years, but haven’t felt confident enough to release.

Until now, the city only reported data about the amount of water delivered city-wide, not

residential consumption rates.

People mistakenly compared Nanaimo’s total numbers – about 500 to 600 litres per capita – with individual usage across Canada and B.C., making the city seem like it was using significantly more water than it actually was, said Bill Sims, the city’s manager of water resources.

Sims always attached a warning to the statistics released by the city, stressing they didn’t tell the whole story about residential use because water is also delivered to commercial and industrial businesses, institutions and fire stations.

But he also never put forward alternative numbers.

The latest information from the water audit is a five-year average. “We have tried to set the record straight before, but often times we didn’t have enough confidence in our residential-only flow (data) to be noisy about it,” Sims said. “But we knew the total flow was being compared to Canada’s residential flow and that was like comparing apples to oranges.”

The water audit launched in January, is an in depth accounting of where water is used in Nanaimo and how leakage could be affecting consumption rates.

The study was highlighted as a key measure in the 2008 Water Conservation Strategy and is meant to guide future conservation efforts.

B.C.-based Kerr Wood Leidal and Associates has been running the audit, which is expected to wrap-up this summer, but has begun to reveal some data about Nanaimo’s water, including per capita flow.

The city sees 530 litres of water delivered per person daily, compared to averages of 591 in Canada and 689 in B.C. Individual usage in single-family homes is at 296 litres daily, which is lower than the Canadian average at 327 litres and B.C.’s 448. Overall, the residential average in the city is at 260 litres, per person.

Nanaimo seems to be on a downward trend when it comes to consumption thanks to conservation efforts like universal metering, but more work has to be done to continue to cut back, said Mayor John Ruttan, who considers the numbers “absolutely positive.”

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