November 13, 2006

Sask moves to conserve water resources in partnership with all user sectors

A new Water Conservation Plan for Saskatchewan reinforces an overall vision with a series of specific principles, goals and proposed initiatives designed to ensure that greater attention is paid to water conservation as a social, environmental and economic driver. The plan emphasizes leadership by example on the part of government, partnerships with communities, agriculture and industry, and public education.

"Saskatchewan is fortunate to have an abundance of natural resources, including water," said John Nilson, Minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority (SWA). "Careful management, efficient use, and strong stewardship of our water resources are required so that we will have a safe and secure water supply for the long-term health and prosperity of Saskatchewan and its citizens," he added.

David Forbes, Minister responsible for SaskWater, pointed out that, "Water conservation does not mean that we must go without water. It means being aware of how much water we use, and using it efficiently so that there will always be enough to support our communities, industries and agriculture."

Almost 7% of Canada's total freshwater reserves are found in Saskatchewan - nearly 1.5% of all the freshwater in the world. But water quality and availability are not uniform across the province, the plan document explains, climate change will place additional pressures on Saskatchewan's water supplies in the years ahead.

Some of the water conservation initiatives proposed in the plan are broad-based, while others are sector-specific. Responsibility for policy direction, co-ordination, target setting and reporting on results in this area will rest with the SWA. Among the initiatives called for in the plan are:

*a commitment to work toward 100% metering of all municipal domestic water use;

*a ban on bulk water exports;

*revision of water allocation policies to encourage water conservation, address in-stream flow needs and encourage sustainable water-based economic development;

*revision of the current fee structure related to issuing water rights;

*a move toward full-cost pricing for all water users and recipients of provincial water infrastructure grants;

*development of industry standards for water use;

*investigation of water use reduction targets in a manner similar to effluent discharge limits; and

*pursuit of water use auditing as a prerequisite condition of provincially-issued environmental operating permits and water use permits.

A water conservation officer position will also be created within the SWA, with responsibility for co-ordinating, developing and monitoring water conservation initiatives, introducing water conservation targets and reporting on the SWA's performance plan.

Saskatchewan's Water Conservation Plan was developed in consultation with various stakeholders across the province. More than 300 people attended eight public consultation meetings and 60 written submissions were received. Further input came from 21 meetings with industry and environmental stakeholders.

Saskatchewan's Water Conservation Plan may be viewed on the SWA Web site, www.swa.ca. More information is also available from Gord Will at the SWA, 306/787-6137.

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