The prolonged hot, dry weather this summer, combined with Whistler’s growing popularity as a summer destination, are taxing the municipal water system. The restrictions on sprinkling which went into effect last week — believed to be the first time Whistler has ever had sprinkling restrictions — are the latest, but not the only example, of the problem. On Sunday, Aug. 9 the well which serves Emerald Estates went dry, leaving area residents with no water and in an extremely dangerous situation if a fire had broken out in the subdivision. There are several water systems serving the various subdivisions within Whistler, including 21 Mile Creek which serves Alpine Meadows. The system serving Function Junction and the Twin Lakes-Tamarisk areas is the largest and purest water source in Whistler. John Nelson, director of public works for the municipality, told council last week the Aug. 9 problem in Emerald was the alarm system didn’t work. The alarm company which monitors the water system has changed hands a few times in recent years, resulting in new dispatchers and a breakdown in procedure. Consequently, the municipality was not informed when the alarm went off signalling the well was low. Nelson said if the municipality had been informed when the alarm went off engineering staff could have switched to the back-up surface water system and Emerald residents would not have experienced any disruption in water service. However, the first the municipality heard of the situation was from Emerald residents when they found they were without water. The Emerald water source was switched to the surface water system and a boil water advisory was issued. Nelson said the boil water advisory was a precautionary measure. The only notice of the boil water advisory was done on Mountain FM. Nelson conceded a better advisory system is needed, including signs at the entrance to a subdivision and municipal staff going door-to-door within the subdivision not notify residents. That will be done in the future. Nelson said Emerald’s well recovered by the evening of Aug. 9 and staff were able to shut off the surface water source. Mayor Hugh O’Reilly apologized to Emerald residents for the mistake. However, Nelson also conceded that the Emerald water system is not up to standard and said the municipality will look at installing new water pipes within the subdivision when it extends the sewer to all Emerald homes. That may not be until 2001. Meanwhile, low water pressure in Emerald has been a problem in the past when the fire department has been called to fight fires. The fire hazard continued to be rated "high" this week, as it has for much of the summer.