Okotoks’ watering schedule and Water Shortage Response Plan saw some changes recently.

The changes were approved by Okotoks town council at their March 25 council meeting, largely in response to the provincial government’s request for municipalities to prepare for severe drought conditions this year.

Okotoks has been water-conscious for a long time, already having a drought plan and water conservation policies in place for years.

With Alberta’s large water consumers being urged to reduce their usage, Mayor Tanya Thorn says it’s a good chance for all Albertans to be more mindful of water usage like Okotokians have been.

“It gives us an opportunity, in my opinion, to start talking about actual water management, what it is, and how we make sure it’s there for its highest and best use. We need water for health and wellness, and life in general. We need it to grow food, we need it for industry. How do we all manage that effectively so that as a province that’s growing, we can continue to have that growth while utilizing less water? That is the opportunity that’s here, and Okotoks is going to continue to lead in that space.”

The town’s Water Shortage Response Plan now has a fifth stage.

This newest stage in the plan represents extreme conditions, wherein only essential water usage would be allowed, which would include some businesses like car washes.

Penalties have also been changed, with fines now being tied to stages and doubling for repeat offences.

The changes to the watering schedule include smaller watering windows, and only on weekdays.

“It used to be one day during the week and one day on the weekend,” says Thorn. “We’ve eliminated all weekend watering. We’ve done that because they’re our highest consumption days. We want to be able to flatline consumption across the scale, so now people will have two days a week during the week. And we’ve decreased the number of hours, so it used to be you had a total of six hours, we’ve decreased that to four, so you’ll have two hours twice a week.”

As well, she's encouraging all Okotokians to be mindful of water usage in everyday settings.

“We all need to be conscious of the water we use. Some simple things I would start with are to pull out the water bill and see what your average usage is. Figure that out, it’ll be in cubic metres, convert that to litres, and have a conversation as a family, ‘What can we do to reduce that usage by 10 per cent?’ Little things, like when you brush your teeth, are you leaving the tap running? Can you flush the toilet two times less in a day? Can you shower for a minute less? Have that conversation as a family.”

More information can be seen on the Town of Okotoks website.