HELENA — As Helena and much of Montana remain in the middle of a drought, city leaders have joined a nationwide challenge to encourage residents to conserve water.
Mayor Wilmot Collins recently announced Helena was joining the Wyland Foundation’s National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation. Residents in more than 2,000 participating cities can go online to make a pledge to reduce their “water footprint,” then track their efforts.
“From changing out shower heads, fixing leaky pipes or faucets or running toilets, to also irrigation — being mindful of how and when we’re using water, especially as the temperatures get hot,” said Jake Garcin, Helena’s public information officer.
Garcin says, last summer, peak water consumption put a strain on the city’s water system. Leaders eventually implemented restrictions on outdoor watering for nearly two months.
“We know long-term that the amount of water we were having to produce last summer, with our current infrastructure, is not realistic and sustainable,” he said. “So it makes it that much more important that we’re talking about water conservation and creative ways that we can use less water going forward.”
The challenge runs through the entire month of April. The cities where the highest number of residents pledge to take part can win prizes, including money toward home utility bills, irrigation controllers, gift cards and more.
One nonprofit in the winning city will also be selected to receive a new hybrid vehicle.
Helena will be competing against other cities with populations between 30,000 and 99,999.
“The more people we can get to sign up, not only does it give Helena more opportunities to win, but it also helps educate the public on our needs for water conservation,” said Garcin.
While the challenge is a competition, Garcin says the city is more interested in getting people thinking about their water consumption earlier in the year.
“The competition part of it is a great incentive for people, but for us, it’s really about the conversation,” he said.
You can find more information about Helena’s involvement in the challenge on the city’s website.