Topic Resources

Tools Used
Initiated By
  • City of Kamloops Utilities Department
  • BC Power Smart
  • Peak water consumption was reduced by 15 percent.
  • $100,000 per year in electricity costs was saved from reduced pumping of water.
  • $500,000 was saved annually in deferred interest charges.
  • Each summer the program paid for itself within the first month, and generated an annual return on investment of over 500 percent.
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This fridge magnet prompted compliance with the watering restrictions.

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This card, left on a tap turned off by a water patroller, reminded residents of watering restrictions.


To reduce peak period water consumption and increase awareness of the need to conserve water, a program involving watering restrictions, bicycle patrols and student exercises was implemented in Kamloops, British Columbia.


The City of Kamloops' pumping facility, supplying approximately 69,200 users, had reached its maximum pumping capacity during the peak summer demand period in 1987. With a growing population, Kamloops was concerned that it would soon be unable to pump enough water to supply the peak demand without expanding and upgrading their facility. They estimated that if consumption rates were not reduced they would need to increase pumping capacity at a cost of approximately $15 million by 1997.

In 1992, the WaterSmart program was launched in an effort to delay expansion by reducing demand for water in the community. The city was unwilling to introduce water metering; instead, it implemented watering restrictions in the summer months and began an education and promotion campaign to increase residents' awareness of the personal and environmental benefits of water conservation.

Our average day to peak day ratio in 1987 was 1:3.1, an extremely high ratio even taking into consideration the hot, dry climate that Kamloops enjoys. Because water systems must be designed for peak demands, had this trend persisted, we would have had to make considerable changes to our delivery system. The upgrades to our pumping and storage capacity were projected to cost approximately $15 million, and would have been done in stages beginning in 1995.

Setting Objectives

Kamloops set the objectives of reducing peak period water consumption by 10 percent between 1992 and 1996, and 15 percent from 1997 on.

A 15 percent reduction in usage would defer the expansion of the delivery system until the year 2006.

The target for the program at its inception was a reduction in peak day demand of 25%, in order to avoid the above upgrades as long as possible.

Getting Informed

Other water conservation programs conducted in Denver, Colorado, and in cities in California were researched to learn how these communities had encouraged water conservation. The school program was modelled after one in Oakland, California. The Kamloops school program targeted grade 6 children because a literature review revealed that children at the grade 6 level were particularly receptive to environmental issues. These students were able to understand the material and became personally involved in practising conservation.

The student programs were first introduced in 1994 as a pilot test in two schools, to determine if any design modifications were needed. The project ran very well and no changes were made at the end. In 1996, there were 25 classes at 18 schools involved in the WaterSmart school program.

Kamloops had two in-school education programs; one was developed and delivered to grades 4 to 6 by the educational staff of the Provincial Wildlife Park in Kamloops, in consultation with and financed by the City. The program was changed every two years to keep the content fresh, in response to feedback from teachers. The other in-school program was delivered during May and June by the Bike Team to K to Grade 3, and involved a skit that is changed every year. In 2003, the WaterSmart message was delivered to more than 2500 students by the two programs.

Delivering the Program

Residents were allowed to water their gardens on even or odd days only, depending on which side of the street they lived, during the summer months. Some pressure to comply with the restriction came from residents not wishing to be seen watering on the wrong days. In addition, fines between $25 and $1,000 were set for illegal watering (Financial Incentives and Disincentives). No fines had been levied as of 1996. However, in the spring of 1997 residents were informed that fines would begin to be handed out during the following summer. As a further incentive, residents were told that if they were able to reduce demand for water, then any increase in water costs would be deferred because the water delivery system would not need to be expanded in the near future.

Four college students were hired to patrol residential streets by bicycle to ensure that people were not watering on the wrong days. If the students did see someone watering illegally, they would stop to remind residents of the watering restrictions, provide water conservation information, and answer any questions (Prompts). On rainy days, the students staffed information booths in local shopping malls. The one-on-one contact proved to be a very effective method of communicating with residents, who said that speaking to students on bicycle patrol made a greater impression on them than television advertisements would have.

Practical action-oriented information was also provided to residents using mass media. A "Tip of the Week" contest was run with the cooperation of a local newspaper and radio station. Once a week, a water saving tip was published in the newspaper and radio listeners were invited to call in the tip. The first people to call received either a WaterSmart t-shirt, a mug, or a low-flow shower head. Once a month, the name of one winner was drawn for a grand prize of an irrigation system, landscaping books, or a gift certificate for a local garden centre. A poster contest was also run for the children of Kamloops. The winners' names were published in the newspaper and each received a t-shirt as a prize.

Advertisements were run on television, in newspapers and on the radio. The 30-second television spots were very expensive and, dollar for dollar, were found to be less effective than other promotional strategies. People were also irritated by the jingle. For these reasons, money was diverted from television advertising in 1996, to add two more students to the bicycle patrols.

In 1995, with the help of federal and provincial grants, the city built a xeriscape demonstration garden to be used as a focal point in efforts to educate the public about low-water use landscaping. In addition, city staff welcomed every opportunity to speak to the public in small groups, including accepting every invitation to speak at garden clubs, parent/teacher nights, science fairs, etc.

In 2000, the sprinkling regulations were changed to prohibit watering between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. in addition to the existing odd/even day restriction. In addition, commercial properties were made subject to the restrictions as well as residential. The fine for a first offense was set at $100, with each subsequent offense liable for a penalty of $200. This was done in response to public input through surveys when the issue of residential metering came up again in 1999. Residents who were opposed to metering were asked what measures they would support as an alternative, and increased education and increased restrictions and enforcement were at the top of the list. Universal residential metering was approved by the City Council in office in 1999, but was put on hold by the Council elected in the fall of 1999. A referendum on the issue was held in October of 2001, and metering was defeated.

As of 1998, Kamloops still hired a 4 member Watersmart Bike Team, and their role had expanded to include in-school education and media contact. Each week from May through August, a team member had a short interview on 2 radio stations, to give a tip and answer questions on various topics. They appeared in front of Council each year to have a "Watersmart Week" declared; they made a TV commercial each year and appeared as guests on a local mid-day news spot once each year. Together with the personal contact with residents, which was considered to be an essential part of our program, the Team also worked through the media and appearances at public events to keep the awareness of the water conservation program high.

Kamloops continued its Tip of the Week with the radio/newspaper.

After universal metering was defeated at the referendum, the Watersmart Program's budget was increased substantially, so Kamloops produced more TV and radio ads than in previous years. The ads were designed not only to make the public aware of the need and reasons for conservation, but also give practical tips on how to conserve indoors and outdoors.

Financing the Program

The City of Kamloops funded the WaterSmart program in its entirety from 1992 to 1994. In 1995 the BC Power Smart program provided a grant for $30,000.

In 1995, the cost of running the program was $91,000, allocated as follows:

Advertising $ 31,000
Administration and planning $ 35,000
Promotional materials $ 12,000
Salaries for bicycle patrol $ 11,000
City wages $ 2,000
Total $91,000

The 1996 costs as of October 31 were $82,000, allocated asfollows:

Advertising $ 11,000
Administration and planning $ 20,000
Promotional materials $ 13,000
Salaries for bicycle patrol $ 20,000
City wages $ 18,000
Total $82,000

In addition to the $30,000 grant from BC Hydro Powersmart in 1995, the program also received grants from the Provincial and Federal governments in 1997 ($3,500 and $10,500 respectively). We also received partial funding for the Bike Team in 2000 and 2001 through the Student Summer Works program and the Environmental Youth Team program. That funding has not been available in recent years, however, and the full cost of the Watersmart program is now funded through the water utility. The budget for 2004 is $188,500.

Measuring Achievements

To monitor the amount of water supplied to the residents of Kamloops, intake pump meter readings were tracked on a daily basis. Since rainfall and temperature affect how much and how often people water their gardens, rainfall and temperature reports were used to identify the five consecutive driest and warmest days of the year. The average daily per capita water flow was then calculated for this five-day period. This allowed the City of Kamloops to compare five-day peak usages for various years.

We still track daily intake pump meter readings, and we now use the single peak day demand rather than the 5-day average peak as our measure. The peak day per capita consumption for each year since 1982 is available, so we compare the average of peak days for the years preceding the Watersmart program's inception in 1992 with the average of the peak days since then as the simplest measure of the effectiveness of the program. In addition, regression analysis has been done on weather patterns and water demands for the years before the program, to assess the effect of weather on water use. Using the formula relating weather to demands derived from this regression allows us to "factor out" weather, which has a strong influence on water use, and to see whether another factor (presumably Watersmart) has been introduced to affect peak day water use.


No feedback had been provided to residents as of 1996, but an advertisement was to be placed in the newspapers informing citizens of the success of the program. The city planned to include graphics depicting the amount of water that was saved, together with a letter of thanks to citizens.

Monday through Friday during the summer months, the local TV news shows the daily water demands for the past week on a graph. The graph serves to show the trend of water use, and is also marked with three ascending areas coloured green, yellow and red, showing when water use is approaching levels of concern. We still publish a thank-you notice at the end of each summer comparing our water use with previous years.


  • The annual, average, five-day peak water usage for 1992 through 1996 was reduced by 14.5 percent, as compared to the average for the years 1984 through 1991. This is remarkable considering that the city had not used water metering to help reduce water consumption.
  • The city has also calculated a savings of $500,000 annually in deferred interest charges by avoiding the need to expand the delivery system in 1997.
  • As a result of the decreased demand, the city's hydroelectric bill was $100,000 less in 1995 than in 1994. This alone covered the cost of the program.

The average of peak day demands for the years since 1992, when compared to the 10 years previous, shows a reduction of 23% in peak day demands. The average to peak day ratio in 2003 was 1:2.3, 25% lower than in 1987, although 2003 was an extremely hot, dry year. We are very pleased with these results, especially considering we still have no residential water metering.

We have not had to perform any of the demand-related upgrades to our system capacity that were projected to begin in 1995 if demand trends remained high, so we have been able to defer $15 million dollars worth of capital improvements.

We are building a new membrane filtration water treatment plant, and we were able to design a smaller plant than we would have if the high demand trend had continued, saving $7 million in membrane costs alone.

Power savings in major booster stations are estimated at approximately $75,000 per year since 1993, and are estimated at $99,000 for 2003.


Randi Derdall
City of Kamloops
105 Seymour Street
Kamloops, British Columbia
V2C 2C6
(250) 828-3395
Fax: (250) 828-7848


Last updated: July 2004

This case study was originally published in 1998 in "Tools of Change: Proven Methods for Promoting Environmental Citizneship" by Jay Kassirer and Doug McKenzie-Mohr (Published by Canada's National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy)

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