Weeks of hot, dry weather and the risk of wildfire have prompted the Village of Pemberton (VOP) to raise watering restrictions to a Level 3 for the first time.
In accordance with the bylaw, Pemberton residents must limit watering to one day per week: even addresses are allowed to water on Thursdays, while odd addresses may water their properties on Wednesdays, from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. or 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. These restrictions also limit watering by in-ground irrigation sprinklers to the same weekly schedule, although those systems are limited to use between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. the following day. The restrictions went into effect last Tuesday
Garden hoses are also prohibited from use on sidewalks, driveways, roofs or other outdoor surfaces, and cannot be used to wash motor vehicles unless the hose is equipped with a hand-operated, spring-loaded shut-off device.
The sprinkling and watering restrictions bylaw was adopted in 2015 to ensure enough drinking water remains available throughout the summer months. It remains in effect from June 1 through Sept. 30 each year, with the specific restrictions ranging in severity from levels one to four.
“It’s to lessen the impact on our aquifers,” said Tim Harris, the VOP’s manager of operations and development services, adding that although the aquifers — bodies of permeable rock that contain and transmit groundwater — can handle the increased consumption of water during the summer, they require a certain amount of time to recover and replenish. “Within a 24-hour period, you want that aquifer to come back up,” Harris explained. “That’s one reason (for the restrictions). Another would be that our reservoirs hold a volume of water, and while those are there to supply the system for the users, they’re also for fire-flow protection. When there’s a high consumption of irrigation and we’re drawing on the system … and bringing it down to below a good level — say half full — if there was a fire and a need to access a lot of water, then we’re behind the eight ball.”
While the alternating days and times designated for water usage work to facilitate the replenishing of Pemberton’s aquifers and reservoirs, it also helps maintain a standard of water pressure needed throughout the Village.
“When you have everyone sprinkling, odd and even (addresses) at the same time, now the pressure within the system goes down and you’re going to find that in your house, your water’s got half the pressure because there’s so much demand on the system, or even no water at all,” Harris said. While low water pressure might be annoying for someone looking to take a shower or fill a water bottle, it becomes a necessity if a fire were to start and require crews to access hydrants. “You always want to maintain, 24 hours a day, that right pressure so you have full use for both potable use and firefighting,” Harris explained.
While restrictions are dependent on several weather-related factors, including fire hazard rating, Harris said officials monitor Pemberton’s reservoirs daily to determine how much water is being used. While the restrictions sat at Level 2 for the majority of the summer, officials measuring overall consumption rates found that residents were largely not adhering to the bylaw.
“When that water consumption starts to increase, then it tells us that we need to slow people down,” Harris explained. “If everyone was to follow the rules in Level 2, then we probably wouldn’t have had to move to Level 3, but we’re seeing an impact on pressure and volume, so we need to cut people off. Now going to a Level 3, there’s no more warnings.”
Those found in violation of the bylaw could face a $100 fine.
The Village is also encouraging the public to help report violations, Harris added. If someone is sprinkling their lawn in excess of the designated hours, he recommends taking a photo and sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org, or contacting the Village at 604-894-6135.
However, Harris urged residents to keep in mind that properties sourcing water from their own private wells — including Pemberton Secondary School and the local elementary schools — are not subject to the restrictions.