Dollars down the drain

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Regional Water Services Committee aims to reduce water waste with Save a Drop campaign

From the point where water flows into the treatment facility at Bay Bulls Big Pond, it takes a total of four hours for it to work its way through the complex system of tanks and pipes before heading out to the pumping station.

Along the way, the water is filtered, chemically treated and monitored for safety and quality. The treatment comes at a cost of

28 cents for every cubic metre, or every 1,000 litres. That cost is ultimately passed on to taxpayers.

Water from Bay Bulls Big Pond pours from taps in St. John's, Mount Pearl, Conception Bay South, Paradise, and Portugal Cove-St. Phillips.

With rising water treatment bills, the communities have launched a single campaign calling for water conservation. It is aimed at having all residents recognize the real cost of their tap water.

“It is your municipality that pays the bill. And that, ultimately, is paid for through your taxes as a consumer. So we’re just trying to get people to start thinking OK, this isn’t free,” said Shannie Duff, deputy mayor of St. John’s, who is also chairwoman of the Regional Water Services Committee.

The municipalities have all chipped in to pay for the Save a Drop campaign — using posters, brochures and a new website to make an appeal for conservation.

Residents are being invited to submit water-saving tips at the Save a Drop website (

To kick things off, Duff suggested using a bucket and sponge rather than the hose when washing your car and not leaving the tap running when brushing your teeth.

On Monday, past the ozonation room, inside the “filter gallery” at Bay Bulls Big Pond, water treatment system engineer Shawn Haye stood beside one of six rectangular, in-ground filter tanks and explained the basics of the water treatment system to reporters. The filtration is one step in a five-step process.

“Yeah, it’s expensive. And it’s taken for granted really,” Haye said.

Water meters are not currently part of the plan for St. John’s, but Duff said meters would make it more difficult for residents to ignore the costs associated with water treatment.

“We’re not metered. So people are not paying per litre. So that incentive to save water is not there — at least not yet,” she said.

Touring the Bay Bulls Big Pond facility with Haye, Duff raised the idea of meters on more than one occasion.

“It’s certainly being really seriously looked at because that is a direct incentive,” she said.

“Every single litre of water that comes through this plant is treated through a process, I think it’s a five-stage process, and this process is getting much more expensive because we have to meet higher (national) standards,” she said.

Conserving water is also a consideration when it comes to preventing shortages. For now, she said, water levels are good. But overuse of water would make a summer shortage and subsequent water ban more likely.

The current campaign, however, is more about not sending tax dollars down the drain, said Duff.

“Wasting water costs,” she said.

Organizations: Regional Water Services Committee.The

Geographic location: Bay Bulls Big Pond, St. John's, Mount Pearl Portugal Cove

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Recent comments

  • Stephen Hall
    May 15, 2012 - 20:32

    I agree our water supply is a valuable resource and should not be wastes. I have traveled all across the US and Canada and visited a number of cities and municipalities and have yet to drink water that even comes close to the quality produced from the Bay Bulls Big Pond water treatment plant. Stephen Hall - Century 21 Seller's Choice Inc.

  • Mike S
    May 15, 2012 - 18:01

    The faster you install meters and get people used to consumption based fees the better off the city will be. The longer you wait the harder it is to have people respect the natural resource we have. Too many waste so much, its taken for granted.

  • A. O'Brien
    May 15, 2012 - 09:33

    Would it not make more sense to install water treatment systems on the drinking water taps in kitchens and bathrooms. Why are we paying so much money to purify water for washing cars ,watering lawns and gardens.Couldn't this water be recycled from current systems and[or catch basins.