Water use rises after B.C. community imposes restrictions during drought

Rain Barrel
The restrictions do not apply to the use of rainwater, grey water, or any forms of recycled water. Photo Credit: Anton Dios, stock.adobe.com

A district mayor for Port Hardy on the northeast end of Vancouver Island says her small community has struggled to accept ongoing water restrictions to the extent that water usage levels have actually increased by 20% since the latest conservation stage began.    

During a recent council meeting, local officials for the district of less than 5,000 people explained that precipitation in May was 8.9 mm compared to 126 mm in 2022 and 108 mm in 2021. June has been dry as well, with the local lake level 10 cm below the dam and approximately 40 cm below the top of the dam boards. 

“We’re at really low levels,” Mayor Pat Corbett-Labatt told council. 

Historically, Port Hardy receives between 30 – 50 mm of rainfall throughout June.

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The increase in water usage became noticeable as Port Hardy moved to its second highest water conservation level (stage three of four) earlier in June. Restrictions were imposed primarily around lawn watering and irrigation, but also for vehicle, boat and exterior surface cleaning. Two days advance notice is required to move from one stage to another.

The mayor added in the June 27 council meeting that the community uses 4.8 megalitres of water per day; however, the evaporation rate is 3.8 megalitres per day.

The conservation levels have gradually increased over the last month. Port Hardy’s social media pages are filled with tips about how to save water. Local officials have also issued community notices.

In the Metro Vancouver area, local officials say water use increases by as much as 50% during the summer months, primarily due to lawn watering.

“It is important that we all do our part to conserve water, especially during these dry summer months,” states one community notice. “Some simple ways to do this include taking shorter showers, fixing leaks in your home, and watering your garden during Level 2 in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler.”

A wide-scale drought in the province may lead to temporary protection orders if drought conditions worsen, according to the Ministry of Forests. 

“If conservation measures do not achieve sufficient results and drought conditions worsen, temporary protection orders under the Water Sustainability Act may be issued to water licensees to support drinking water for communities and avoid significant or irreversible harm to aquatic ecosystems,” the ministry announced in a statement, noting that provincial staff are monitoring the situation and working to balance water use with environmental flow needs.

A full explanation of all water restriction levels can be viewed here. The restrictions do not apply to the use of rainwater, grey water, or any forms of recycled water. 

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