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Municipal Water Use & Conservation

Municipal use accounts for about 21% of all water consumed, and domestic use uses about 70% of municipal withdrawals. Municipal and rural domestic and commercial water supply must be of the highest quality and requires extensive-and expensive-infrastructure.

Conservation has a large potential to meet increasing water demand in the rural and urban municipal sectors. According to one prominent expert, "Water conservation and efficiency are the greatest untapped sources of water-cheaper, cleaner, and more politically acceptable than any other alternative." One of the strongest incentives to conserve water is that higher efficiency helps municipalities avoid costs for water supply infrastructure.

A large number of conservation options are available to residential water users. A five-minute shower with a standard showerhead, for example, uses 100 litres of water; the same shower with a low-flow showerhead uses 35 litres of water. Low flow showerheads are inexpensive and easy to install. Other simple and cost effective conservation methods include eliminating faucet leaks, using low flow faucets and placing water dams in toilets to reduce flush water.

Another important way to conserve is to decrease water used in yards and gardens, which uses about 15% of residential water. Instead of traditional lawn grasses, which require frequent watering, drought resistant grasses, shrubs and decorative plants can be substituted. Soaker hoses and water timers reduce watering losses due to evaporation and barrels can be used to collect rain for watering plants.

Other conservation methods require larger initial investments, but often pay off in the long run through decreased water, sewer and energy bills. Low flush and dual flush toilets are one of the most important ways to cut water use. EnergyStar rated clothes and dishwashers are water efficient and also save energy (and PST is no longer charged on these appliances.)

Experiments in "green housing" show it is possible to eliminate external water supply by employing cisterns to collect rain for most household needs and by recycling "gray" water- water from washing clothes or dishes or showering-to flush toilets or water grass.

Governments at all levels can play a decisive role in water use efficiency by adopting a variety of policies to influence water demand. Better policies include:

Aggressive water conservation policies pay off. Smart conservation and watershed management programs in New York City, for example, have saved billions of dollars in avoided costs for new supply and water and waste treatment. Meanwhile, total water use in 2001 was 25% below 1979 levels. There is no reason why similar measures would not be effective in towns and cities throughout Saskatchewan.