People are going to have to get used to the idea of seeing their lawns go brown.
Metro Vancouver has moving to Stage 3 watering restrictions, meaning residents in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will no longer be able to use a sprinkler to keep their lawns green or their cars clean. It is the first time Metro Vancouver has moved to Stage 3 since 2003.
The news comes on the heels of the province’s announcement that the South Coast and the Fraser Valley are in Level 4 drought conditions.
According to Metro Vancouver’s website, reservoir levels are at 69 per cent capacity with residents and businesses consuming about 1.6 billion litres of water a day. Metro Vancouver relies on three reservoir systems to supply the region’s 2.4 million residents with drinking water. The Coquitlam reservoir is supplying residents with almost half of all the water being consumed, while the Capilano and Seymour supply the rest.
“Unless we change the amount we’re consuming, that’s a trajectory we just can’t go down,” Metro board chair Greg Moore said.
Stage 2 cut daily water consumption from 1.6 billion litres per day to about 1.35 billion.
But Moore said the region needs to cut it further, to less than 1.2 billion litres a day.
That’s more than the 900 million to 1 billion litres used on average in the winter but Moore admits it’s a challenging target in hot, dry summer months.
Stage 3 also bans all refilling of hot tubs, pools and garden ponds, among other tighter restrictions on outdoor water use.
Pitt Meadows bylaw enforcement officer Lesley Elchuk said they’ve been busy patrolling the city letting residents know the new restrictions.
“We were out there this morning telling people of the new regulations in place,“ said Elchuk. “Everyone we talk to has no problems with the ban. They understand what’s going on.”
To date, Pitt Meadows has handed out five fines for $200 each and an estimated 90 warnings.
Elchuck said anyone who already has received a warning will now face a $500 fine if they are caught skirting the regulations now that Metro Vancouver has gone to Stage 3. She said the goal at this point is education, but fines will be handed out if need be.
“Once we explain and talk to them about the situation, they understand and have been very cooperative,” said Elchuk.
While there is some rain in the forecast for this week, it’s not expected to make much of a dent in the over picture. Environment Canada’s long range forecast for the region is calling for sun and warm temperatures returning starting early next week.
The City of Maple Ridge posted on their Facebook page that the city will be out ramping up their enforcement and are asking people to call in if they see people ignoring the ban. The fine in Maple Ridge is $750.
Social media vigilantes have taken to drought shaming violators online, often using the tag “#grasshole.”
The sprinkling ban covers not just residential and commercial lawns but all parks, cemeteries and boulevards.
There are no longer exemptions for watering of newly seeded lawns or on ones treated with nematodes to fight chafer beetle infestations.
Sports fields and school yards can still be watered at minimal levels to keep them playable.
Golf courses can still water greens and tee areas, but the move to stage 3 means fairways can no longer be watered and will be allowed to go brown.
Residents can still water shrubs, trees, vegetables and flower gardens using hand held hoses, but only if they have a spring-loaded shutoff nozzle. Watering cans and drip irrigation systems are still allowed, but there’s no watering of gardens or planters using sprinklers or soaker hoses.
Hosing off vehicles and surfaces and all forms of pressure washing are also banned, except for health and safety purposes, as well as commercial pressure washing to prepare a surface for painting or sealing.
That means all outdoor car and boat washing is now banned except for cleaning windows, lights and licence plates for safety.
Stage 3 restrictions are expected to remain in place until Sept. 30. It can take up to 72 hours before individual municipalities begin enforcement.
Metro officials still have one more weapon left in their water conservation arsenal, if necessary.
Should the extremely dry conditions continue and the Metro Vancouver moves to Stage 4 restrictions, it would mean there would be no watering of flower and vegetable gardens. In addition, water parks would be shut down, along with commercial car washes.