Water rationing sign of the times

I was on Fort Frances council when the water tower was constructed. It was completed in 1985—just when construction of the water treatment plant began.
Up until that point in time, a water pumping station located at Pither’s Point Park supplied the water for Fort Frances and Couchiching First Nation.
The only purification the water received up until completion of the water treatment plant was heavy chlorination. Should the power fail, a massive gas-powered pump acted as a back-up.
When a fire erupted in the community, the fire department would ask that the pressure from the pumps be increased. In summer and during heavy watering demands, the flow of chlorine was increased.
By today’s standards, Fort Frances’ water treatment was very primitive. If you lived in the far west end of the community, the water pressure declined and almost disappeared in summer months.
And the town had no storage facility.
Through looping of water lines, and the building of the water tower in the west end, all of Fort Frances had proper water pressures and water for fire protection.
In fact, several homeowners discovered—much to their dismay—that proper water pressure caused some fittings to fail and water sprayed throughout their homes.
With the completion of the water treatment plant on Fifth Street East and Colonization Road, Fort Frances residents had the finest, safest drinking water in the province.
Great, safe drinking water takes time to produce. The plant was designed for a community almost twice the size of Fort Frances. But little did we understand how much water Fort Frances residents would consume.
The water tower provided storage and pressure for fire protection. Another large storage tank in the water treatment building also provides storage.
While we may have the best drinking water in the province, Fort Frances residents are water hogs—using more than the average Canadian household. We continue to draw higher flows with fewer citizens.
The conservation measures the Public Works has called for are now draconian. The town has called for a ban on watering lawns, gardens, washing cars, and filling swimming pools.
In Australia, they go even further, asking people to also limit their showers to three minutes, use less water for flushing toilets, use low water consumption washers, and collect rain water for watering lawns and gardens.
All of this background was sparked by a conversation Monday where two residents wondered why they wouldn’t be able to water their gardens this summer. They remembered back to a time when the community didn’t have a water tower or water treatment plant—and there was no shortage of water.
They wondered why the work couldn’t be postponed to August and September after the growing season. And neither had the containers to move large quantities of water from the river pumping station to their homes.
Doug Brown supplied the answer yesterday. The curing time for the paint on both the inside and outside of the tank requires a considerable number of days of warm weather.
“If we don’t do it right, we will be faced with repeating the procedure in a few years,” he noted. “We can’t afford to be without fire protection. I have to protect the infrastructure.”
Maybe this water rationing is a sign of our future. It may prove to be a way to reduce municipal water distribution costs by having citizens use less water.
It also may lead to the installation of water meters for every household that homeowners will pay for the water they use. In other jurisdictions, water meters do result in greater conservation of water.

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