Non-stop running of taps has watershed group worried about waste

Delays to the Parkdale pipe improvement project have residents there running taps to prevent the temporary above-ground pipes from freezing — something that concerns the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association.

124 customers must run taps when temperature dips below 0 C

Parkdale residents are being told to keep their water running when the temperature is below 0 C to prevent the lines from freezing. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Delays to the Parkdale pipe improvement project have residents there running taps to prevent the temporary above-ground pipes from freezing — something that concerns the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association.

Sarah Wheatley, watershed co-ordinator for the association, says she wasn't happy to hear about the water running, but hopes that it is worth it in the end.

"I was definitely disappointed to hear that the city was telling people to just run their taps non-stop," she said.

"It is a waste of water but hopefully it's in the greater good by reducing the leaks in this pipeline going forward."

Project intended to prevent leaks and breaks

Richard MacEwen, manager of Charlottetown's water and sewer utility, says though the project in Parkdale is using water, the work will hopefully save water in the long run.

Overall it's just not a good idea to have people wasting water. — Sarah Wheatley , watershed co-ordinator

"The whole reason why we're doing this work is to reduce the number of main breaks and leaks that we have in the system. So while we are using some water now, if we didn't do this work we'd be losing that water to the ground," he said.

"So this is over a few weeks, we need to do this and then we're going to have the benefits of not having those breaks for 50 years."

Estimated water use

MacEwen said there are 124 customers who currently have to run their taps whenever the temperature threatens to dip below 0 C. 

He said the city estimates about five litres per minute is running through taps in those homes.

"The increase in our nighttime flow is probably 10 litres per second, so that's about five per cent of our daily average flow."

The temporary water line is still above ground which makes it prone to freezing. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Wheatley said the association ran a program last summer assessing water usage in homes and offering low-flow shower heads and toilets. During those assessments she says they found the average amount of water from a running tap was six litres per minute.

By the city's estimate, over 6.3 million litres of water is being used per week, by those 124 households. Using the association's estimates the number climbs to almost 7.5 million litres being wasted per week.

Mixed messages

Wheatley says she worries about mixed messaging coming from the city when it comes to water usage.

"Overall it's just not a good idea to have people wasting water and having all this messaging telling people to use water wisely and then turning around and 'Oh we screwed up this project, everybody just run your taps, it'll be okay this time,'" she said.

Most of our customers were able to maintain water flow even last week when we had those cold temperatures.— Richard MacEwen , manager of water and sewer utility

"When all the rest of the time you're telling them 'Don't run your taps. Shut the water off when you're brushing your teeth.'"

'Not the critical time of year'

Wheatley says the water usage shouldn't cause problems for the watershed, especially with the wet weather this fall.

"This time of year is not the critical time of year … for water conservation."

MacEwen says the city is hopeful colder temperatures won't affect the lines.

"The hope is that we're not going to get there. Most of our customers were able to maintain water flow even last week when we had those cold temperatures."

He also said if necessary the city could use heat trace tape to keep the pipes warmer should temperatures drop low enough that running water won't prevent freezing.

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