Green lawn is a scarlet letter

Watering ban being enforced by cities as sources dry up

Lawn watering cheaters in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are going to be seeing more enforcement from city hall.

Staff in Maple Ridge are already hearing from people who are letting their lawns turn brown, while their neighbours run sprinklers under the cover of darkness to keep their turf lush.

“If you see people watering, give us a call,” said Fred Armstrong, the city’s manager of corporate communications.

That’s the message city hall is sending the public, starting this week.

“People are resentful that their neighbour is running a sprinkler every night during the watering restrictions,” Armstrong added.

He also said that homeowners in some neighbourhoods appear to be competitive with other properties for the quality of their lawn and landscaping.

“It’s like lawn wars.”

But sinking water levels means now is not the time.

May and June set records for hot, dry weather in southwestern B.C., and there has been little precipitation so far this month.

Under the Stage 2 watering restrictions now in effect, lawns can be watered from 4-9 a.m. on Mondays for even numbered addresses, and during the same hours on Thursdays for odd numbered addresses.

Hand watering for vegetable gardens and shrubs is allowed.

A call to city hall will not result in an immediate fine, he explained. The first visit will likely be from city operations staff, who will turn off a faucet, drop off a notice of the lawn watering restrictions, and record the address.

A subsequent complaint could result in fines, depending on the infraction.

Maple Ridge bylaws has not yet issued fines for watering infractions, and is still at the stage where it is issuing warnings from operations staff and bylaws officers.

Armstrong said most hardware stores sell inexpensive timers that will allow people to start sprinkling their lawns at 4 a.m.

He noted that recent rains were too small to make a difference in watering restrictions.

“It would have to be a tropical rainstorm to move the needle.”

In Pitt Meadows, enforcement began at 6 a.m. every day last week, and bylaw officer Lesley Elchuk is handing out citations.

In the first week, she issued five fines for $200, and 71 warnings. She issued 20 warnings on Friday alone.

“She’s doing a lot of proactive work,” said city engineering services coordinator Ike deBoer.

Elchuk is spotting the violations, rather than responding to public complaints, said deBoer.

“There haven’t been too many people tattling on their neighbours, yet.”

Elchuk could pull the plug on the city’s overflowing water use statistics.

According to Metro’s numbers, Pitt Meadows has some of the highest water usage in the region. Delta tops the list at 632 litres of water per person, per day. Belcarra is the lowest at 170 litres. And Pitt Meadows uses the third most of any municipality in the region, and 508 litres. Maple Ridge is in the middle of the pack, at 408.

DeBoer explained that Pitt’s numbers are skewed because some of that water is used for agricultural irrigation in the farm community.

Many farmers use water pumped from the Katzie Slough for irrigation, but some use potable water out of the city system.