Metro Vancouver plans to enforce stricter rules for summer water conservation

Residents will be allowed to water their lawns only once a week from May to October

Metro Vancouver will be enacting annual water restrictions starting May 1 until Oct. 15. (Flickr/UBC Micrometeorology)

Metro Vancouver will be enacting annual water restrictions starting May 1 until Oct. 15. (Flickr/UBC Micrometeorology)

The Metro Vancouver region will be enacting annual water restrictions starting May 1 and lasting until Oct. 15. There will be some changes to the restrictions this year as the region sets stricter rules. 

Last year, Metro Vancouver residents were allowed to water their lawns two times a week, however, they will only be allowed to do it once a week this summer during morning hours. Automatic watering will be allowed from 5:00 am to 7:00 am, and manual watering from 6:00 am to 9:00 am.

Other changes to the water restrictions include banning lawn watering in an earlier stage of the process compared to previous years. The water restrictions for the region will be enforced by municipalities and will not affect recreational places like water parks and athletic facilities. 

The stricter water rules this year are due in part to the large water use that resulted from the heat waves experienced last summer, which resulted in the deaths of 595 people in British Columbia. 

Lucas Pitts, Metro Vancouver director of policy planning and analysis of water services, says last summer was “extraordinarily dry” and the region used an “unprecedented” amount of water. 

The Metro Vancouver region is known for receiving large amounts of rain. However, Pitts says there is only a certain amount of rainwater that can be stored in the dams for drinking, and any extra amount left goes into the river.

Pitts says conserving water is important because it benefits watersheds and fisheries. It’s also important because some predictions for the effects of climate change include long hot summers and warm winters. With warmer winters, Pitts says many predict more periods of heavy rainfall.

“The rainfall in the winter doesn’t do us anything. We need it to fall as snow because as the snow slowly melts in the spring, it allows us to slowly keep our reservoirs filled,” he says. 

The region has something called a “stop spill date,” a day where the reservoir levels behind dams are kept as high as they can be, with the goal being to push the “stop spill date” as late as possible, so there is more stored water available for the summer. 

According to the Metro Vancouver Water Supply Outlook 2120, the region plans to build additional water storage to move water from Coquitlam Lake. The document shows that the infrastructure for the project is expected to be complete by the mid-2030s. 

Pitts says working to conserve water during the summer months can help with conserving water before the proposed infrastructure project is complete. 

From winter to summer, Pitts says the water usage in the region goes up between 30 to 40 per cent. If the increase in water usage is typically around 40 per cent, he hopes the new restrictions can lower the number to 30 per cent. 

“Right now our snow packs are just over about 100 per cent of the average. This time last year, we were at 140 per cent. So, it’s a little bit less than last year, but it’s still over the average, so we’re in pretty good shape going into the summer,” Pitts says.