Wasting water is money down the drain

This is the water treatment plant at Greeley Creek. Laura Stovel photo



The residual water from the water treatment plant, used in cleaning the filters, is neutralized in caustic and citrus tanks and then is settled in ponds before it is returned to Greeley Creek. Fish added to the settling ponds need to be able to live for 24 hours before the water is considered clean enough to release into the creek. Click the image to see a larger version of it. Laura Stovel photo

By Laura Stovel


BC Hydro’s Power Smart Program has a series of clever TV ads that show people wasting copious amounts of paper, water, apples and other goods. The ad says “The most ridiculous thing about wasting power is that for some reason we don’t think it is ridiculous.”

Doug Pendergast, utilities foreman at the Revelstoke Water Treatment Plant, wants Revelstokians to know that wasting water is also throwing money down the drain. Whether we are drinking a glass of water, showering, washing a car or watering our lawns, most of us use water that comes from the Greely Water Treatment Plant. That water has been treated to a level that assumes we could drink it or use it for cooking. As Pendergast said, that makes the water used for washing down a driveway for the third time deluxe water indeed.

“People say we have lots of water,” Pendergast said as he shows us the enormous equipment that cleans the water at the Greeley Water Treatment Plant. “But now we’re restricted to the amount we can filtrate.” While water always cost money to deliver, before 1996 “the water was not chlorinated” and didn’t require the level of purification that it does today, he said.

Most people in Revelstoke are not aware that water restrictions apply all year, not just during the

Examples of the filters that help purify the water. Please click the image to see a larger version. Laura Stovel photo

summer, Pendergast said. Watering “for sprinkling, irrigation,” and washing “driveways, sidewalks and roadways” is only allowed between 6:00 and 10:00 in the morning “at even numbered property addresses on even numbered calendar days and odd numbered property addresses on odd numbered calendar days”, according to the City of Revelstoke website. “It used to be 6:00 to 10:00 morning and night,” Pendergast said, “but people would leave the water on all night. Now it’s only allowed in the morning.”


As summer approaches, Pendergast knows that water use will escalate. The day before our visit in late April, the plant filtered 1,484,000 gallons of water but in the summer it will double to more than three million gallons a day. “In the summertime people waste so much water that these units are just screaming,” Pendergast said. “People don’t understand” the impact of the water they are wasting. “Before I got into this profession I was just as bad,” he said.

As a result of similar concerns, many towns have chosen to go to water metering. Pendergast mentioned that many government grants are going to be tied to having a metering program in place.

In 2010, the City spent approximately $487,000 on the Greeley Creek Water Treatment Plant, including money spent paying off debt and interest on that debt. While much of that cost is fixed, some costs could be saved in chlorine, energy, wear and tear of equipment and the delayed need for upgrading, if less water were consumed.

Pendergast is outspokenly proud of the water treatment plant and is passionate about water conservation and management. “I’m hands-on. I started in the ditch,” he said. He started working for the city in 1998 and trained under then-utilities foreman Don Manson.

In early 2010, Pendergast took over running the plant from Manson and implemented a few changes. One major change was a reduction in the amount of chlorine used in the system. “I put in .73 parts per million of chlorine residual,” he said, down from 1.2 parts per million previously used. The first customer in the 109 kms of water main will have the largest amount of chlorine and the last customer must have at least a 0.2 residual of chlorine, he explained.

Here is a selection of additional photos:

Doug Pendergast shows environmental educator, Tara Johnson, around the water treatment facility. Laura Stovel photo
Pendergast showed us where the water of Greeley Creek, which runs off the back of Mount Mackenzie, enters two settling ponds before being piped into the treatment plant. He is understandably protective of this area, and discourages hikers and skiers from interfering with the creek in any way. “It makes my job easy when the water is pristine,” he said. Laura Stovel photo
This is the final settling pond at Greeley Creek. Laura Stovel photo
Tara Johnson has been talking to many elementary school classes about weather systems and water conservation as part of a North Columbia Environmental Society program. Here she is showing Grade One students at Mountain Viewl a model of the Revelstoke watersheds. Laura Stovel photo