Hot. Dry. Sunny. That’s been the weather forecast for much of the spring and summer of 2015. Long dry stretches, coupled with a lack of snowfall last winter, leave our region facing a water shortage. Residents of Metro Vancouver can play a vital role in managing the water we have. With a few simple steps around homes and yards, impacts are kept to a minimum.
Low snowpack, record heat, and little rainfall in the forecast
Hardly any snow this winter, and record heat and low rainfall in May, June, and July. We’re facing a tough situation when it comes to the region’s water, but you can make a difference
Brown is the New Green
To maintain the reservoir levels we need for priority purposes in our homes, and community needs such as fire protection, we need to reduce our discretionary uses immediately. When you realize that one hour of lawn sprinkling alone uses as much water as 25 toilet flushes, 5 loads of laundry and 5 dishwasher loads combined, it’s clear that sensible choices and wise water use habits concerning lawns and gardens are a necessary step this summer. These are the current Stage Three water restrictions:
Stage 3 Prohibitions
- Lawn sprinkling is prohibited;
- Municipal exemption permits for new‐lawns or nematode application are prohibited;
- Watering of trees, shrubs, flowers, decorative planters and vegetable gardens by sprinklers or soaker hoses is prohibited;
- Private pressure washing is prohibited;
- Washing of driveways, sidewalks and parkades for aesthetic purposes is prohibited;
- Washing of all cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and other recreational and vehicles is prohibited;
- Golf course fairway watering is prohibited;
- Cemetery lawns – all forms of watering are prohibited;
- Municipal parks – all forms of watering are prohibited;
- Operation of ornamental fountains is prohibited;
- Filling or refilling of private swimming pools, hot tubs and garden ponds is prohibited.
Stage 3 Permitted Uses
- Hand watering of trees, shrubs, flowers, decorative planters and vegetable gardens using a spring-loaded shutoff nozzle, containers or a drip irrigation system is permitted;
- Watering of turf at turf farms or flowers and vegetables at commercial gardens is permitted.
- Hosing of outdoor surfaces (e.g. driveways, sidewalks, roofs) if required to avoid public health and safety concerns or to prepare a surface for painting/sealing or similar treatment is permitted;
- Commercial pressure washing for health and safety purposes or to prepare surface for painting or similar purposes is permitted;
- Commercial car wash operations are permitted;
- Golf course watering of greens and tee areas at minimum levels required to maintain areas in useable condition is permitted;
- Sports playing field (including sand-based) and school yard watering at minimum levels as required to maintain areas in useable condition is permitted;
- Artificial turf requiring wetting and outdoor tracks if required for dust control or safety reasons is permitted.
What else can you do?
We hope that the residents of Metro Vancouver will understand the importance of abiding by these regulations and forego the temptation to sneak in a sprinkling session. Here’s some additional ways to be water wise:
- Put leaves and bark mulch around shrubs and trees to hold in moisture
- Water vegetable gardens in the morning, near the roots, and by hand
- Wash cars for safety only, (windscreens, windows and headlights) using a bucket
- Sweep driveways or decks with a broom instead of the hose
- Install a shut-off valve on your hose so it only runs when in use
- Join the herd, and let everything go a little dusty this summer.
To learn more about creating water-thrifty gardens using drought-resistant plants download Water-Wise Gardening: A Guide for British Columbia’s Lower Mainland , for a comprehensive look at garden planning and design, plant selection, irrigation techniques, and other steps you can take for an attractive garden that doesn’t require a lot of water. It has tips you can use right away, and plenty of food for thought when you’re ready to get your green thumb dirty next Spring.
Will dry spring and summer be the new normal? Is this climate change?
Climate scientists’ projections for our region, and elsewhere, are for more extreme weather events, including hotter, drier summers. However, within that frame we can also expect the usual year-over-year variation. So while over time we can expect to see dry years like this one more often, we’ll probably see some wetter ones as well. But this long-term trend means that finding ways to use less water will not only help us this year, it will also be a start on the shifts we’ll need to make as climate change becomes more severe.
Home is Where You Can Help
Our homes are where we can be in the most control of our water use and contribute in a positive way to Metro Vancouver’s efforts to minimize the impact of 2015’s hot, dry weather patterns on our water reservoirs. It’s our hope that you’ll join us in those efforts.
Want to know more about Metro Vancouver’s water management efforts? The information linked below is intended to support your conversations about low rainfall and snow, drought, and our reservoir levels:
- Declaration of Activation of Stage 3 of the Water Shortage Response Plan – July 20, 2015
- Media Release – Metro Vancouver Ramps Up Water Restriction To Stage Three
- Water Shortage Response Plan – full version and abbreviated version
- Protecting your watersheds, including a video on fire suppression
- Current reservoir levels