Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Do you flush this with the big button or the little one?

When Saskatoon's Environmental Advisory Committee submits its report to council on water conservation, it should also submit Pavlov's theory on conditioned behaviour.

Asking the public to engage in water conservation, while at the same time continually increasing water rates, is not an incentive to participate.

Recently council was advised by administration to strip out the infrastructure reserve. a reserve established for maintenance and repair of water and sewer lines, to off-set the operating deficit due to low water consumption last summer. In 2009 council approved water rate increases of 7.5% for each of the years 2011, 2011 and 2012. We are being conditioned to believe that low water consumption equates to higher water rate increases.

I invested in low-flow toilets. My water bill goes up. I invested in a water efficient washing machine and reduced the number of washing loads. My bill went up. I run my dishwater about every three days. My water bill goes up. To the chagrin of my neighbours, I leave lawn watering to Mother Nature. My bill goes up. Recently I invested in a state-of-the-art energy efficient heating system. My bill has not gone down.

Most of us who invest in conservation practices be it low-flow toilets and shower heads, water efficient washing machines, energy efficient heating systems and reduced yard watering, expect to see some return on our investment. It goes against the human psyche to invest in something that appears to give no return benefit.

I know the esoteric argument is saving the planet and minimizing future rate increases, but we are conditioned to believe that these conservation investments will show a return on our living costs.

A $50.00 rebate reward on a higher cost toilet is not going to cut it with the average canine. You can only ring that bell so many times without rewarding the dogs before they quit responding the the ding-dong.


  1. Once again the city Administration has shown it's inability to logically look at our city and evaluate what we need.

    In reading about this I notice that the only relevant quote as to why this program is a recommended is because, 'most other Western Canadian cities have some sort of a program'. There were no statistics included in the document.

    So once again in trying to grow our city we are simply looking at what other cities have done and said we need to do that as well, with no independent thought given to it.

    I'm not saying that we don't need to practice better conservation, but what I have noticed is that the people that are proposing programs generally have no idea what they want outside of copying larger cities. We went through this with recycling, where no one had an idea of cost, how the program would be run, who would run it.....but good golly they knew we needed a recycling system because every other city had one.

    Further proof that we need to flush the current Administration down the pipes(not the Mayor and Councillors, although they too may need similar treatment). Never have I heard a more incompetent bunch than those working for the City.

  2. Have you read the SEAC report? It's available online. Perhaps doing so would be a good first step.

    The point of the report was water conservation, not what are water usage is in Saskatoon. These statistics were presented in a much larger report by Admin last year.

    SEAC structured the report on the premise that we need to reduce the amount used - any statistics or savings are for City Admin to figure out and decide if the cost/benefit makes sense.

    The report looked at best practises across Canada and compared them to what Saskatoon currently does. It then makes reccomendations based on that comparison. So yes, it uses other cities as a baseline - that's how policy is usually developed by all administrations.

    As to the increased cost of water of the past few years in Saskatoon - we have had extremely low rates for a long time, which were not sustainable.

    It is unfortunate that Admin still budgets using water revenue to balance the books. As last year demonstrated, this isn't a sound practise.

  3. Ahhh so all from the words of a socialist Sean S, the NDP trumpeting of lowest utilities in the country were always an unsustainable mirage.

  4. Why would we waste taxpayers money to provide a second rebate on top of the one already offered by the provincial government?

  5. I don't think the Mistress is asking for a rebate. I think she is more interested in ranting on a civic administration that steals from Peter to pay Paul and then expects the citizens to cough up more money to bail them out of their mistakes in operations.

    As for Sean S..... Your comments aren't all out of line. I agree placing your hopes on unrealistic revenues (sounds a bit like Potash Royalties) will only get you in the hole when they are not realized. At least the Police can just go out and ticket more people it is hard for the water utility to ask us to use more all along trying to tell us to conserve.

    To get back to the Mistress' original thought Conservation has always cost the end user more money and all along without justification. We are going to see one of the worst spring floods in history, by all accounts, yet we continue to hear we need to conserve water??

  6. I'm confused as to what the City wants me to do, within the last month I have heard from them that the water usage last year was much lower than expected resulted in them stealing money from the capital reserve funds to cover the operating expenses. Furthermore, all indications are that we are to expect another wet spring which in all likelihood will mean that usage will once again be below normal.

    The rates were recently upped to compensate for the lower than expected revenue.

    Now we are again being told that we need to conserve?

    In a round-a-about way has the municipal government just basically told us that they want us to use less product so that they can jam the rate up higher. If that isn't a middle finger from City Hall not sure what would.

    I agree with the first Anon, this endless mentality that because Calgary is doing it so must we is ridiculous. Why does no one understand that each market is unique and requires unique programs designed to suit it. Instead we have Neanderthals at City Hall who only seem intent on copying what other cities have done.

  7. Dear Sean. I think you may have missed the point of today's post. It relates to to an organization trying to get people to buy into a program without recognizing that they won't if they can't see any direct benefit on the short term. Its human conditioning that I speak of. Anon 10:38 drives home point with the comment that our governments past (and maybe present) have conditioned the public to believe that low utility rates are an achieveable entitlement.

    By example - how to you get Joe Q. Public to replace his still functioning $100.00 cadet model toilet with a $500.00 low-flow efficient model, adding on to this the plumbing cost of replacing the toilet, if Joe can't see a direct benefit, i,.e. reduced monthly water bills. Why would he bother? The sell game if flawed.

    I have read my share of reports and audits on conservation. I do understand the issue of sustanability. However as a society we have been conditioned, much like Pavlov's dogs, to believe that if we participate in conservation we will see a personal reward.

    In short, your average SPCA mutt is not looking much beyond his next meal.

  8. Last time I made a conscious effort to conserve my personal water usage the City sent me a letter saying that not enough water was being used and that they needed to charge me more money. So basically my motivation for using less water is to pay more for said water? Riggggggght good try City of Saskatoon.

  9. Sean aren't you the Vice-Chair of SEAC. I would think that you would have at least stated this prior to expounding the virtues of the SEAC report. Gives a little more perspective behind your opinion.

    You said:

    "The point of the report was water conservation, not what are water usage is in Saskatoon. These statistics were presented in a much larger report by Admin last year.

    SEAC structured the report on the premise that we need to reduce the amount used - any statistics or savings are for City Admin to figure out and decide if the cost/benefit makes sense."

    So in paragraph 1 you note that the basis of the report is water conversation, and not water usage. But in paragraph 2 you begin with the premise of the report was to reduce usage.

    I'm confused, because aren't conservation and usage rates intertwined?

    In any event, or however you try to spin it, I think the tougher sell is convincing the average citizen which department of the City is lying to them. One is saying water usage rates are too low (so low we need to up our rates) and the other is saying we need to offer a incentive program to people to lower the water usage rates. Confusion coming the City workers....that is a surprise.

  10. Mistress,

    I agree with the general premise of your post. In my first comment I was more responding to the very first commenter's remarks.

    I couldn't agree more, the conflicting messages on reducing water useage, rate increases, and budget shortfalls is infuriating (I've ranted more than once to the power's that be about this!). Education is key and the City has a lot of work to do to bring people up to speed on all aspects of the issue.

    As a point of clarification on the cost of toilets, last week I bought a decent low-flow toilent for $200 from Home Depot (instead of the $80 water hog). Yes, there are $500 cadillac's available as well, but I don't think the price is that astronomical.


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