The climate in BC is changing: Metro Vancouver moves to Stage 3 water restrictions because high use plus drought depletes reservoir storage
Note to Reader:
On July 20, 2015 Metro Vancouver moved to Stage 3 water restrictions – for the first time since 2003 – banning all lawn sprinkling with treated drinking water and bringing in a number of other water conservation measures. Following the announcement, BC-1 news anchor Aaron McArthur interviewed Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC, about short-term and long-term considerations for water conservation. To watch the interview, click on the image below.
The New Normal
“The ‘new normal’ in British Columbia is drought and flooding. The summer dry season has extended on both ends and communities can no longer count on a predictable snowpack and reliable rain to maintain a healthy water balance in their watersheds. This is putting water supply systems and ecosystems under extreme stress,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.
“Historically we have not respected water. We have taken it for granted. When you have extended winter periods of rainy weather, people think that it rains all the time. But we have limited physical opportunities to store the water. So, when we get into an extended dry period like we are now in, all that water has to be in storage. We have a fixed volume and the fixed volume has to last for a longer period of time.”
“British Columbia is 85% mountainous and all the good sites were long ago dammed and impoundments created. This means that we have to be more efficient, more wise in our use and more respectful of how we use the water…because we have to stretch it through dry weather periods.”
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Circa 1990 Kim Stephens was the team leader for a series of 11 watershed hydrology studies over a 5-year period for Metro Vancouver. These provided the cornerstone for development of the master plan for regional water supply expansion and drought management to serve a population of 3 million. Subsequently, he was responsible for the regional cost-benefit study on residential water metering for Metro Vancouver.
During that same period, Kim Stephens was also the team leader for a study undertaken by the Province of British Columbia to assess the potential for domestic and irrigation water conservation in the Okanagan Valley.
Stage 3 Water Restrictions Ban Lawn Sprinkling to Prevent Water Shortage
“So we are under great stress at the reservoirs, consequentially we have to reduce our consumption.”
With reservoir storage levels at 69% and dropping, Metro Vancouver region moves to next stage of Water Shortage Response Plan
The move follows last week’s provincial declaration of a Level 4 drought for the South Coast and Fraser Valley, which warned if supplies continued to dwindle, there could be water shortages that affect people, industry and agriculture.
Daily water consumption in Metro Vancouver has dropped from a high of 1.7 billion litres a day at the start of July, but is still too high at 1.4 billion litres a day, the regional district said in a statement. The target for sustainable consumption through until November is 1.2 billion litres a day, or less.
Mussatto says not enough people have been taking water restrictions seriously. Hence, the need to move to Stage 3 restrictions.
“We would have liked to see less people watering their lawns,” he said, referring to when Stage 2 water restrictions were put in place early in July. “Everyone needs to do their part to reduce our consumption.”
Reservoir levels sit at 69 per cent — a level outside the normal range for this time of year.
Mussatto says last week the region started diverting water in high alpine lakes into the Capilano Reservoir. He anticipates more alpine water will be diverted into the Seymour Reservoir.
“We need rain and we need it now,” he said. “Three or four days of solid rain. We need well over 140 to 150 millimetres to have reservoirs back to where they should be.”
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The restrictions only apply to treated drinking water — which for most in the region, is what comes out of the tap or hose. The rules don’t apply to so-called “grey water” — defined as household waste water that does not come from toilets — recycled water or collected rain water.
If the region moves to Stage 4 restrictions — the highest in the water shortage response plan — all water parks will shut down, along with commercial car washes. All hosing of outdoor surfaces and watering of flower and vegetable gardens would also be banned.