Golden brown might soon be the new green as Nanaimo residents follow increasing water conservation measures set out by the City of Nanaimo and the Regional District of Nanaimo. Conservation Level 2 water use restrictions come into effect Monday (June 15) in the city that will limit residents to watering lawns and washing vehicles to just two days a week. The RDN is already at Level 3 restrictions.

Drought pushes water conservation in Nanaimo

NANAIMO – Provincial government says Island in midst of Level 3 drought.

No one in the Nanaimo area can remember ever going to such extreme watering restrictions.

And it’s not officially summer for another 10 days.

The City of Nanaimo will increase water conservation in the city’s boundaries to Level 2 on Monday (June 15), following a bulletin from the provincial government that the Island, Gulf Islands and Haida Gwaii are experiencing Level 3 drought conditions.

“I don’t know that we’ve ever gone to Level 2 watering restrictions,” said Bill Sims, the city’s manager of water resources.

Level 2 restrictions mean no watering is permitted between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Washing driveways and parking lots is prohibited.

Residents living in even-numbered addresses can water on Wednesdays and Saturdays, while odd-numbered addresses can water on Thursdays and Sundays. Residents can wash vehicles or boats only on their watering day.

Gardens are included in the watering restrictions, but hand-held shut off devices, like nozzles, are exempt. Sims said the city’s intent is to raise awareness on watering and if someone is prudent in their watering and trying hard to stick to their watering days, the city’s approach will be reasonable.

The Jump Lake reservoir is about 95 per cent full, but summertime draw-down began a month earlier than usual. Sims said the city is confident enough water is available throughout the summer if conservation begins now.

“We’re bracing for and taking a conservative approach that it’s going to be a hot, dry summer,” Sims said. “We’re walking a balance here.”

The Regional District of Nanaimo is continuing with its Level 3 restrictions, which began last week, said Julie Pisan, drinking water and watershed protection program coordinator.

“We’re taking a conservative approach not just from lack of rain but because of lack of snowpack,” she said. “We don’t know the impact of a low snowpack into the fall.

“Even with rain in June, we could still get a drought in July, August and September.”

The snowpack for the year is 11 per cent of normal, Pisani said, adding the RDN has never gone to Level 3 restrictions in all of its water systems.

Level 3 restrictions in the RDN mean residents may water for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening, every other day, from 6-10 a.m. and 6-10 p.m.

Residents are not permitted to wash driveways or sidewalks. Hoses must be equipped with a shut-off device when washing vehicles or boats.

Hand-watering gardens with a watering can or hose with a shut-off device is permitted at any time.

“If we can hold tight in Level 3, if people are complying with those restrictions, we’ll be fine into the fall,” Pisani said.

Agricultural and industrial operations are exempt from the restrictions, but the province is encouraging those users to adopt the 20-per cent voluntary reduction it’s also asking of residents.

Staff with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations are monitoring river levels and might upgrade the drought level if the weather continues to have a negative effect on stream flows and water supply.

Level 4 drought is the highest rating and could result in provincial water managers suspending short-term water permits or industrial water licences.

Nanaimo residents have already reduced water consumption by two per cent so far this year, which Sims attributes to public awareness on conservation, higher water rates and a general cultural shift in mindset.

“People don’t take [water] for granted,” he said. “We don’t believe we have a right to a green lawn anymore.”

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