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2021 heat wave sparks changes to lawn watering regulations

New West water shortage response bylaw to limit lawn watering to once a week
Metro Vancouver is changing up its lawn watering regulations to help conserve water.

Changes are coming to lawn watering regulations in response to last summer’s heat wave.

At its March 28 meeting, council will consider an amendment to the city’s water shortage response bylaw, which updates current lawn watering regulations for Stage 1 and Stage 2 restrictions. This includes:

* Reducing lawn watering from two days per week to one day a week during Stage 1.

* Banning lawn watering completely during Stage 2.

* Reducing the time when trees, shrubs and flowers can be watered during Stage 1 and Stage 2. It will now be allowed from 4 to 9 a.m., instead of 1 to 9 a.m.

“The record-breaking heat wave observed during the summer of 2021 resulted in unprecedented sustained high water use,” said the report. “The long-range climate projections show that our region can expect longer summer dry spells and decreased winter snowpack, limiting summer water availability.”

According to the report, this bylaw amendment, combined with a strong education and enforcement program, will help reduce seasonal water demand and offer a number of regional benefits, including financial savings, potential deferral of major infrastructure projects, greenhouse gas reductions and operational flexibility.

Metro Vancouver’s lawn watering regulations are in effect from May 1 to Oct. 15.

Last fall, the Greater Vancouver Water District board’s revised the region’s drinking water conservation plan in response to recent climate events. That includes reducing lawn watering from two days to one day a week in Stage 1 and a complete ban in Stage 2.

The staff report stated the region’s four-staged drinking water conservation plan is designed to reduce demand for drinking water.

“The record-breaking heatwave that our region experienced last summer (2021) resulted in unprecedented sustained high water use, which reached a regional daily water consumption of 1.79 billion liters on June 27, 2021, just shy of the two billion liters all-time high set in 2009,” said the report. “The regional also experienced sustained high water use above 1.5 billion liters per day, for 40 days, compared to the average of only 15 days during a typical summer.”

Here’s an overview of Metro Vancouver’s drinking water conservation plan:

Stage 1 is automatically in effect from May 1 until Oct. 15. It aims to promote water conservation and efficient watering practices.

Stages 2 and 3 are activated and deactivated by the Greater Vancouver Water District’s commission. These stages can be activated during unusually hot and dry conditions as a way of maximizing water conservation until the risk of a water shortage has passed.

Stage 4 is also activated and deactivated by the GVWD commissioner. The staff report notes that during this stage, indoor and outdoor water use is limited to ensure an adequate supply of drinking water for human consumption and essential uses such as firefighting.

According to Metro Vancouver, vegetable gardens can be watered during all stages of the drinking water conservation plan.