W.E.T. Challenge helps 250 homes conserve water


by Peter Speckner, Communications Coordinator

When you set out to change the water-using habits of hundreds of thousands of people, you use all the help you can get. That’s why the Region of Waterloo has partnered with REEP Green Solutions on the W.E.T. Challenge to provide accessible in-home water audits and water-saving resources to local residents.

The Region provides the tools for self-analysis along with information and warnings of high water usage to homeowners.  REEP Green Solutions delivers the trained professionals who go into homes, perform those audits, and provide advice on where and how water consumption can be reduced. Together, that partnership has already helped hundreds of homeowners save water.

Milestone 250th water conservation visit

water audit paperworkVoula & George Hodgins of Waterloo experienced that teamwork first hand.  They received a letter from the Region of Waterloo offering them a FREE water-audit.  “When I first read it, I thought it was a scam.  So I ignored it”, George commented. Since the W.E.T. program has only been around since June 2015, it still isn’t well known yet.  “When the second letter arrived, we realised it was real and called to arrange our audit.”

They were glad they did. They had been staring at escalating monthly water bills, with no knowledge of why. That’s where Brendan Schaefer, the REEP Green Solutions water auditor, comes in. He walked them through the evaluation, checking every sink, toilet and shower. He evaluated water hardness, water flow, and the regeneration cycles of the water softener. He even gathered info on lawn watering and shower durations, dishwashing amounts, and laundry loads.

When all was recorded and inspected, he sat down with them and advised them on where savings could be found.  Aerators to lessen faucet flow and changing the regeneration times of the water softener were tops on his list.  When all was said and done, the Hodgins’ had a plan of action ready to execute to help them lower their water usage.  And all at no charge!

The Birth of a Successful Program

Where did this program come from, you ask?  For that, we talk to Steve Gombos, Manager of Water Efficiency for Waterloo Region.  “Waterloo Region has been spearheading water efficiency programs since the 70s,” he said.  “They were sending out toilet dams and (then) water-efficient shower heads back then already.”  In 2015, the W.E.T. Challenge was created. The Region decided to challenge people to reduce their daily water consumption, and give them all the tools and resources needed to succeed. When asked about people’s reluctance upon receiving notice of a FREE audit, he commented “In this day and age, people are conditioned to be wary of offers of “free” things; they think it’s a scam.  We will need time to let word of mouth and education spread the news of our program.”

Early Success

The program has been off to a great start.  With a stated goal of 350 audits for the first year, there have been 250 completed in the first eight months. That puts it on track to exceed its initial target.

When asked why water conservation was important, Steve responded “Waterloo Region is landlocked.  We’re not next to a lake like Toronto. We have 120 wells and the Grand River.  That’s it.  It’s a limited water supply.”  It looks like saving water is becoming more and more necessary as time goes on. “The good news, “he said, “is that the region’s water usage has been steadily declining, even as our population has been growing.” That means that all the hard work is paying off.  We still can’t sit back and relax though; we need to continue working to get the message out.

The Partner in Conservation

The other organization helping to get the message out, while also providing the trained water auditors, is REEP Green Solutions. According to Dave Blake, Energy Programs & Business Development Manager, “We have been serving Waterloo Region since 1999, helping homeowners to live sustainably and working within our community to make energy and water conservation the norm. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the Region and deliver these audits, and see the 250th audit as but a great start to this journey.”

Take the W.E.T. Challenge

Could you benefit from an audit of your water use? Take the W.E.T. Challenge and find out!

The Water Services division of the Region of Waterloo is more than happy to answer any questions you may have, and their website also has tips on how to reduce water usage.

In April, we’ll be sharing blog posts here with ideas for conservation in your home.

We all need to work together to reduce our own water consumption, and help our friends and neighbours to reduce also. When asked if he had any final thoughts, Steve replied “I want to thank the citizens of Waterloo Region for all their efforts in conserving water.” We’re all in this together, one big regional family!

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