Letter: Anticipating water shut-down in Summerland

Water shut-down will have it's own ‘collateral damages.’

To the editor:

Most people do not realize just how much water we consume each day, so let’s look at about how much you will need to have on hand to survive the ‘Great Summerland Water Shut Down’ next March.

Based on Okanagan Basin Water Board data the average indoor per-person use of water is around 150 litres per day, and that amounts to a total of 450 litres per person for a three-day shutdown. The average household in Summerland has 2.36 people, so the three-day total required per household for this model is 1,062 litres or 233 gallons.

1,062 litres of water requires 37.5 cubic feet of storage space and would weigh 2,336 lbs.

The average bathtub can hold about 190 litres, and if used for toilet flushing only based on a 10 litre average of new and old fixture flush usage, you will get a total of 19 flushes from a tubful. Each person averages five flushes per day and at 2.36 people on average per residence, that totals 11.8 flushes per day. So you can see that a tubful of water will only do the average household 1.6 days, or around half of the shutdown period.

Surprised at this? Well, most people usually are. This is a model based on averages of use and capacities relevant to the Summerland situation, and will give a good idea of the dimension of the challenge we will face.

However, it does not take into account reductions from emergency water use measures that we would employ, but even taking this into account, it is still daunting. Given such measures as doing laundry before the shutdown, cooking ahead and using ready to eat market food so that only reheat is required, using disposable plates and cups, sponge off only personal hygiene, flushing only when you absolutely have to, (and remember folks, the water goes in the tank, not the bowl).

So even if we cut our consumption by half you will still require 117 gallons weighing 1,170 lbs. That 117 gallons equals 2.6 45-gallon drums for the average household. The math for a family of four or five gets shocking.

The District of Summerland did put out an email addressing the situation and stated that they will be ‘providing tips and ideas’ regarding conservation measures at a later date, but it is hard to imagine what they are going to offer that would greatly relieve these onerous circumstances. By the email’s general tone, however, it would seem that they hadn’t given the collateral consequences of the shut down much thought before deciding to go ahead.

How business is going to operate is still a mystery. With no relief you may well have to shop ahead of the shut down as well.

One point of the email was of particular interest in that the current system design, which was approved by WorkSafe BC at the time it was constructed, would normally allow for this maintenance without a shutdown, but WorkSafe BC has since rewritten regulations that now triggers the need for shutdown. Perhaps this could be an area of easement where special safety measures for this specific exercise might be accomplished with the right level of authority involvement, read political, because of onerous consequence to citizens, would allow the project to proceed without shutdown.

The email said bypassing the valves being replaced ‘was not possible’, but one would ask if a temporary surface module running along the road shoulder so as to avoid ditching has had consideration. Or to use this same module in sequenced valve replacement starting upstream, rather than all at one time.

One aspect of particular concern is the fire situation. The letter states that ‘water will be carried on all fire engines’ but realistically this would only last for a very short time with no capability of delivering adequate water volume in the case of full fire involvement. The water supply tanks mentioned at various locations will have no meaning whatsoever in general because one can readily see that leaving the scene of a fire to go to refill and return with a few more minutes of water holds no practicality.

So, a big question is, if I have a house fire, will my insurance be valid? Insurance companies are big on raising rates and avoiding claims, so I wouldn’t trust this situation for a moment.

So, folks of Summerland, we have a very odd situation in the making. Can you recall ever having heard of anything similar to this in your lifetime? Just a three-day water shutdown?

Roy Roope, Summerland