BCWWA – Municipal Parks and Water Conservation

Neal Klassen, working with the City of Kelowna, presents “Municipal Parks – The Missing Piece in the Water Conservation Puzzle”.

Where do Municipal Parks fit into water conservation?
Most cities ignore parks as water usage.

Neal interviewed 12 Municipal Parks Managers in BC:

  1. Water is un-metered and under-priced in parks
    • Even when metered, they are not being read, and not being billed.
    • Most parks just pay a yearly flat rate, some pay nothing at all.
    • Rates charged do not reflect cost of service.
    • In Kelowna, parks rate was 12% cost of service.
    • Most utilities do not measure parks water use.
    • In Kelowna, Parks consume 20% of total utility water production between May and September.
  2. Parks are typically not designed for water efficiency
    • Non-municipal parks offer passive experiences in Natural Settings
    • Municipal parks tend to be heavily groomed, landscaped turfed areas.
    • Sports fields in particular require high water use and are exempt from local watering restrictions.
    • Most parks utilize extensive turf and non-native plants
    • Penticton and Surrey merit special mention for designing parks for water conservation.
  3. Irrigation technology can waste as much water as it saves (sometimes more!)
    • Automatic Irrigation Systems connected to central control can reduce irrigation by 25 – 30%
    • However, they still require regular maintenance and upgrades to continue operating efficiently.
    • The deficiencies can eliminate any gains made.
    • irrigation uniformity testing can determine the spread of water, (70% is good).
  4. People have extremely high expectations for public parks
    • Most parks were created at a time when conservation was not on the radar
    • The public has very high expectations for municipal parks, in terms of lush, green turf, and colorful plants
    • Communities in Bloom rewards green grass
  5. There are mixed opinions among parks managers in BC about the need for water conservation.
    • Five of the managers indicate that water conservation is not an issue.
    • Four of these were in municipalities that receive water from the GVRD – yet others say it is an issue.
    • In the dry interior it is an issue, particularly when there is a reliance on snow apck.

What will it take for water to become a part of the culture?

  1. Municipality must decide that conservation is an important issue
  2. If it is, Parks Department must be part of the solution
  3. In some cases it will take a crises before action is taken
  4. In other cases the direction must come from the water utility or council
  5. Measurement of parks water use should be an integral part of an municipal water management strategy.

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.