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The southern Ontario town of Port Elgin has discovered the economic joys of conservation. By initiating a water saving programme costing $550,000, the community eliminated the need for a $5.5 million expansion of its water treatment plant.
Municipal authorities initially thought treatment plant expansion would be the only way to meet increasing water demands and provide for new development. But the estimated cost encouraged the town to seek a cheaper alternative.
In the end, town officials found that by installing residential meters and providing inexpensive water saving devices to the town's 6500 residents, they could cut overall water consumption by 25 percent, indefinitely postpone treatment plant expansion and cut operating costs for the existing treatment and sewage plants.
Port Elgin's conversion to conservation began in 1989 when the Ontario Ministry of the Environment imposed a construction freeze. The municipal water treatment plant could not provide sufficient additional water for new development.
Because the treatment plant's capacity was most seriously strained by summer lawn watering, the town council first tried to cut demand by imposing a lawn watering by-law. But by-law enforcement was difficult and the residents, who paid a flat fee for water and …