COASTAL LIVING: Not a drop to waste

NANAIMO – Water restrictions making a difference in supply.

Despite watering restrictions

Despite watering restrictions

With all the years the City of Nanaimo has had summer water restrictions, conserving the valuable resource has become almost automatic for residents.

Bill Sims, manager, water resources, notes a number of factors behind the decline of per capita water consumption in Nanaimo.

“Water restrictions have been in place for years and the system we have in place is pretty straightforward. People are aware of it,” he said.

Level 1 restrictions run June 1 to Sept. 30 with homeowners of odd numbered houses or complexes allowed to water on odd numbered days, and even days for even numbered homes.

No watering is allowed between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. any day.

“It has been around for so long, it’s comfortable for people,” said Sims. “But at the same time, people have come around to seeing it as common sense and most wouldn’t waste it.

“I think water restrictions has raised awareness of water being precious. I don’t know that we can get the message out any better.”

The city stores water in the Jump Lake and South Forks dams and Sims said water levels for this time of year are good despite a slightly drier winter and spring.

“We had 20 to 30 per cent less than average snow pack, but we compensated for that by storing water in  the Jump Lake dam a little bit earlier this year,” he said. “June has been a relatively gentle month in terms of precipitation, but we’ve still got water coming into Jump Lake so we’re essentially going to be at full when we start to see the demand for water in July. We’re pretty much at full storage which is exactly where we want to be for this time of year.”

But that doesn’t mean an abundance of water for the summer.

“Summer is here and people are starting to water their gardens and lawns, but we haven’t seen the really hard hit in water consumption. That usually occurs in July,” said Sims. “The last two or three years the summers have been kind of wet which takes a lot of stress off our reservoirs and there is a trend across North America of a more conservation-minded use of water.”

The city has partnered with the Regional District of Nanaimo, Lantzville,  the Fairwinds community in Nanoose, Parksville and Qualicum on Team WaterSmart, raising awareness on the region’s water supplies and providing information on water conservation, irrigation initiatives and water quality.

So Sims and his crew keep one eye on the water levels on a daily basis as well as the sky, monitoring both rainfall and sunshine because it doesn’t pay to get complacent.

“If we were to get another freight train of a summer like 2003 or 2006 with the population we have now, it would be getting close to the point of calling for Level 2 restrictions (Thursdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for odd numbered houses and Wednesdays and Saturdays for even numbers),” he said.

For more on Team WaterSmart, please go to