Thirst for More Drinking Water in Calgary Could Cost $2 Million

Posted in: Drinking Water News, Global Water News
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Article Courtesy of Jenna McMurray|Calgary Sun|September 14, 2014|Shared as Educational Material

Direction from city bureaucrats hasn’t quenched a couple of Calgary councillors’ thirst for better accessibility to drinking water.

A report going to the utilities and corporate services committee this week says the current provision of publicly accessible H20 is just fine, with drinking water available in 45% of the city and civic partner buildings that Calgarians can visit.

A notice of motion brought forward by Councillors Gian-Carlo Carra, Diane Colley-Urquhart, Brian Pincott and Evan Woolley passed in February, meaning city administrators were to look into the possibilities for improving access to drinking water.

In the report, administrators say they identified 373 publicly accessible buildings, not including CTrain stations.

To install drinking water amenities in the buildings that don’t currently have them — 28 considered “high-traffic” and 179 “low traffic” — it would cost about $2 million.

The installations in just the high traffic buildings would cost $280,000.

The report recommends not spending the cash, stating “there is no recorded request for additional public drinking water.”

Carra said the way the issue has been addressed — mainly a “strange and shocking debate” on the matter in council — has been disappointing.

He said his intention is not to spend a large sum of money retrofitting existing infrastructure and knows others won’t support that.

“I fully expect committee to be harsh at the thought of spending millions of dollars retrofitting existing facilities,” he said.

However, Carra said he was hoping there might be a more forward-thinking discussion about the future of publicly accessible water, as well as expanding the mandate to civic partners and private properties such as malls and the Plus-15 network.

Pincott said he was disappointed with the report finding drinking water accessibility is adequate.

“I was unhappy with them basically saying everything is fine because I don’t think it is,” he said.

“Forty-five percent is not enough.”

Pincott doesn’t support investing a large sum of money for a giant retrofitting project like the one suggested in the report, but said adding the infrastructure should be a priority on individual construction and renovation projects at new sites or ones without accessible drinking water.

“We need to have a policy or a direction that is opportunity-based,” he said.

However, Sutherland said spending $2 million on installing drinking water amenities would be “totally excessive.”

He thinks, instead, the city should continue replacing taps in washrooms with long-necked models so Calgarians can use the sinks to fill water bottles, which he calls a “way more cost-effective” measure.

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