Water restrictions tighten during dry summer

A record low snowpack and an unseasonably warm start to the summer in the Lower Mainland points to a summer of tight water restrictions...

A record low snowpack and an unseasonably warm start to the summer in the Lower Mainland points to a summer of tight water restrictions for residents of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

Stan Wood, a Metro Vancouver senior engineer in the water services department, which oversees the 24 regional districts in the Lower Mainland, including Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, said the water supply in its three reservoirs sits at about 87 per cent of capacity.

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows primarily draw their water from the Coquitlam Reservoir. However, the Capilano and Seymour Reservoir are all integrated within Metro Vancouver’s overall system. The three watersheds cover an area of more than 585 square kilometres and provide potable water to the region’s 2.4 million residents.

Wood said while 87 per cent capacity level sits within the normal range at this time of year, the hot, dry weather that’s persisted since mid-February has a close eye on supplies.

“We are carefully monitoring things and we have been for months because we’ve been watch the limited snow and the fact that it disappeared early,” said Wood.

He said the dry conditions translate to higher consumption rates — about 15 per cent — which is something they’re used to seeing in July, not early June. The region’s residents consumed about 33.5 billon litres of water in May.

“Really, the key message is we had a record low snowpack and an unseasonably warm start to the summer, and given that, we are encouraging people to conserve water,” said Wood.

Vancouver had it’s driest May since 1946, as only 4.2 millimetres of rain fell in the month, compared with an average of 68 mm.

The Pitt Meadows airport was not quite as parched. While the average rainfall sits at 136 mm, the airport recorded a mere 27.6 mm of rain for the month, thanks mostly to a soaking on May 5 that dropped 20.4 mm of precipitation.

April was close to 100 mm under its normal 161 mm average, and February saw only 128 mm of rain, compared to its average of 240 mm.

Fred Armstrong, manager of corporate communications for Maple Ridge, said conservation is going to be key in the coming months.

“What Metro is pointing out, and what the city is aware of is, if there’s little to no rain in the next little while, we’re going to see the ratcheting up of water restrictions throughout the summer,” he said.

Currently, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge are at Level 1 restrictions, meaning residential restrictions now limit what time you can turn on your sprinkler.

Even-numbered addresses can sprinkle their lawns from 4 to 9 a.m.  every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.

Odd-numbered addresses can turn on the sprinkler from 4 to 9 a.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

While sprinkler restrictions are in place, the watering of flowers, shrubs and vegetable gardens is permitted, only if done by hand using a spring-loaded shut-off nozzle, or using containers or drip irrigation.

He said common complaint the city receives is residents using a sprinkler to water their garden. Armstrong said at that point, bylaws will respond.

“Bylaws isn’t going to come up and ticket you,” said Armstrong. “It’s educational at this point.”

In Pitt Meadows, bylaw enforcement supervisor Lesley Elchuk said the city has also seen a spike in calls about watering violations.

“In the last week, we’ve had a significant increase in the number of complaints.”

Like Maple Ridge, the goal is to inform, not ticket.

But with little in the way of rain in the forecast, Stage 2 restrictions almost seem inevitable. The has been a mere 3.8 mm of rain in June and while there is a 40 per cent chance of rain called for on Friday, June 19, the rest of the month is expected to be hot and dry.

Going to Stage 2 restrictions would mean residents can only use a sprinkler once a week on their lawn.

Even-number addresses could water on Mondays, using a sprinkler from 4 to 9 a.m., while odd-numbered homes could do the same on Thursdays.

“Basically, what we’re going to see throughout the summer for the Fraser Valley Regional District, as well Metro Vancouver, is that if there is not significant amounts of rainfall in the next month we’ll probably see the water restrictions start to move through the different stages,” said Armstrong.

Abbotsford, which sits outside Metro Vancouver’s region, already has Stage 2 restrictions in place. The move comes after the city has seen its lowest snowpack in the 24 years it has kept records. City staff is monitoring levels at Dickson Lake and indicated it will implement an all-out ban on water and the use of non-recirculating fountains if the hot, dry conditions persist.


Stage one watering restrictions for non-residential addresses:

• Even-numbered addresses may sprinkle lawns from 1 to 6 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.

• Odd-numbered addresses may sprinkle lawns from  1 to 6 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursday.

• Non-residential addresses may also sprinkle from 4 to 9 a.m. on Fridays.