With new high-temperature records being set in July and the lower mainland in drought conditions and under extreme fire danger rating, conserving water is not a nice to, it is a have-to in BC right now.
According to a recent article in The Province Metro Vancouver water supply declining at ‘startling’ rate reservoir levels hit 79 percent of maximum capacity, the lowest percentage recorded since 1987.
“A low snowpack, a dry spring, and early melt contributed to low run-off and many reservoirs not meeting normal expectations,” says John Janmaat UBC Associate Professor of Economics and Regional Innovation Chair in Water Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability.
Janmaat is currently managing several research projects including one aimed at water conservation activities both inside and outside our homes. He says while it may be the lower mainland in a position of scarcity this year, conservation is something all British Columbians need to be cognizant of when they are using water for non-essential purposes like lawn watering and car washing.
“It is not just this year we need to think about; it is next year too.”
As one of the driest watersheds in Canada, the Okanagan Valley has faced water shortages in the past and it’s expected it could again in the future, in part due to a growing population and climate change. After a supply and demand study in 2010 verified low water availability and high water use in the region, the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) launched itsOkanagan WaterWise public outreach program to raise awareness around water issues in the valley. The following year it launched itsMake Water Work initiative to encourage outdoor water conservation in the area.
“The second largest amount of water used in our region is on outdoor residential landscapes,” says Corinne Jackson, Communications Director with the OBWB.
So what can you do, in this hot and dry year to help keep our present-day and future reservoirs healthy?
Outside of your home
If you live in Metro Vancouver it would be great if you did not wash your car and with Stage 2 water restrictions in place you are only allowed to water your lawn once a week.
Kamloops residents can find watering regulations and time of day restrictions here. Greater Vernon water regulations are found on the Regional District of the North Okanagan website. With five separate water purveyors operating in Kelowna you’ll want to visit the Water Smart website to determine restrictions in your direct area.
Wherever you live, the folks at OBWB shared this great checklist to help reduce our outdoor landscape water use. Take the Make Water Work Pledge and:
1. Only water your lawn between dusk and dawn
2. Water plants, not pavement
3. Leave your grass 2-3 inches tall
4. Leave grass clippings as mulch
5. Aerate your lawn and top dress it with compost
6. Change out some of your lawn with drought-tolerant turf and/or native low-water variety plants. A list of low-maintenance, ultra-low water use plants is available here.
Inside of your home
From energy efficient appliances to reducing the time you spend in the shower, there are lots of ways to conserve water in your home. Okanagan WaterWise recommends the California Urban Water Council’s water saver home website for detailed conservation tips.