Montreal

Use less water or you'll pay: Que. warns

The Quebec government is warning municipalities and businesses to reduce their water consumption or risk being penalized.

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About 18 per cent of Quebec's water supply is wasted annually because of leaks and main breaks. ((Associated Press))

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  • Quebec wants to reduce annual water consumption by 20 per cent.
  • Quebec homes and businesses use 35 per cent more water than the Canadian average

The Quebec government is warning municipalities and businesses to reduce their water consumption or risk being penalized.

According to a Municipal Affairs ministry study which compiled data on water use based on a 2006 Statistics Canada report, Quebec homes and businesses use 35 per cent more water than the Canadian average, and 62 per cent more than their counterparts in Ontario.

Environment Minister Pierre Arcand called it an abuse of the resource and said part of the problem stems from a misconception about the availability of potable water in the province.

"In Quebec we've always been told that resources were abundant, that there's no problem with water," said Arcand. "So I think a lot of people have that in their minds."

Arcand added about 18 per cent of the water supply is wasted annually because of leaks and main breaks.

Targets set, penalties threatened

Quebec wants to reduce water consumption by 20 per cent over the next six years and has come up with a series of penalties and incentives to encourage municipalities and businesses to meet that target.

Firstly, the province wants all municipalities to do a review of their water consumption by next year and come up with a plan for fixing leaks.

Municipalities that don't reduce their consumption by 10 per cent over the next three years will be required to install water meters in all businesses, said Municipal Affairs Minister Laurent Lessard.

Lessard added there will be consequences for municipalities that fail to comply.

"Government subsidies will be reduced if you haven't decided to [make the changes]," he said at a news conference in Quebec City on Monday.

Lessard also dangled the possibility provincial infrastructure subsidies could be increased for those towns and municipalities which do reduce their potable water use.

The city of Rivière-du-Loup, northeast of Quebec City, has reduced its consumption by 52 litres per person, per day, over the last few years, said Mayor Michel Miron.

"We've saved 360 million litres [of water] a year, that we don't have to treat and distribute to our system," he said, adding the city has also saved water by fixing its infrastructure.

"Leaks in our distribution system dropped from 20 per cent [to] 7.7 per cent in a year," he said.

Morin said the municipality has also installed water meters in all commercial buildings, and introduced a tariff of 75 cents per thousand litres.

Quebec said it will adopt a similar system in other municipalities, if reduction targets are not met by 2017.

Residential users not part of new initiative

Quebec also intends to modify the province's building code to ban certain types of toilets and shower heads in an effort to reduce water use, but the environment minister said when it comes to residential water consumption Quebec is opting for an information and awareness campaign.

"The citizens, if they are properly informed, must understand," said Arcand.

"We did it with the blue box for example, we didn't have to put some penalties or fees. I think the recuperation rate is now getting better all the time," he said.

"I think this is the way to go."

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