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City of Salmon Arm staff and council to review water restrictions in the fall

Council Report by Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison
Salmon Arm moved to Stage 4 water restrictions on Aug. 18, 2023, and has since returned to Stage 3. (Rebecca Willson-Salmon Arm Observer)

Council Report

By Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison

On July 23 we used over 23,000,000 (million) litres of water.

It was hot every day, with drought-like conditions.

The average household in Salmon Arm uses 39,000 litres of water per month. Of course, our usage during the summer months is significantly greater than during the cooler ones.

B.C. was and still is experiencing one of its worst droughts, with over two-thirds of the province’s water basins being ranked at Level 4 or 5 drought conditions – level 5 being the most severe.

In Salmon Arm, 45 per cent of residential properties are metered. Three per cent of those users choose to use metered billing. Properties not metered were built prior to meters being mandatory in new builds.

Results from water meter analysis determined there to be 137 (out of 2520) excessive users. An “excessive user,” is classified as a household that consumes at least twice the average amount of water. Letters were sent to these residences. Educational conversations were had with each who responded (55 of the 137 responded). Many of these had water leaks that were repaired. Some decided to make an effort to reduce water consumption, and six agreed to be put on metered billing.

We have a “State of the art” water treatment plant. Completed in 2009, located near Canoe Beach, the plant can treat upwards of 30-32 million litres per day based on the current infrastructure.

From the water treatment plant, clean water is pumped to 13 different reservoirs throughout the city. Some of these reservoirs are located within or near city parks.

Water pumped to Canoe and the downtown core needs to be pumped only once to reach its source reservoir. However, water pumped to many locations throughout the city needs to be pumped from reservoir to reservoir to reach its destination. Our highest points in the Hillcrest and Industrial Park areas, receives water that has been pumped four times and through three different reservoirs, therefore reliance on hydro is critical.

Our water capacity is stretched not by the amount of water we can treat, but by the amount we can pump. During cooler months, our pumps can easily replenish reservoirs after peak demand. However, when we use 23,000,000 (million) plus litres of water day after day, the pumps at the pump stations run steady, stressing the water distribution network.

On July 26th, the City of Salmon Arm moved to Stage 3 water restrictions. Water usage declined 20 per cent to 25 per cent.

On August 18th, wildfire raged through the North Shuswap. That evening there were wide-spread power outages. Stage 4 water restrictions are reserved for emergency situations.

Having to move to generator powered pumping, and with the threat of wildfire on our doorstep, we were in an emergency. We moved to Stage 4 restrictions.

Thanks to the vast majority of Salmon Arm residents, our water consumption dropped to around 10,000,000 (million) litres per day. We know that you sacrificed lawns, flowers and vegetable garden watering to make this happen. The city stopped watering as well, except for infrastructure such as sports fields, that would be very costly to replace. Like you, we were sad to see our flower baskets and gardens wilt.

Later this fall, city staff and council will reflect and review our water restriction rubric. We have received some good suggestions from the public that will be considered before next summer. If you have ideas you would like considered, feel welcome to email me at

Read more: Salmon Arm moves to severe Stage 4 water restrictions

Read more: Drought, high demand prompts tighter water use restrictions in Salmon Arm
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