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Pemberton eschews water restrictions

Education an important aspect to compliance with water conservation measures

"It’s a good way to be environmentally correct."

–Sonja Lebans, acting mayor, District of Squamish

Is your neighbour cavalierly drenching his crabgrass 24/7? A call placed to municipal hall will surely show the watering rogue the error of his ways – as long as he lives in Whistler or Squamish.

Both those communities have water conservation bylaws restricting lawn watering. The Village of Pemberton does not – nor is it planning to instate such municipal legislation because there are no concerns about water levels.

"We have no plans to implement water restrictions. Our pump works well. Our watershed is good," explains Amy Todd Mussett, the VOP’s confidential secretary on behalf of Clerk-Treasurer Bryan Kirk.

"And consumption will go down because the gardening season is coming to an end."

Considered a necessary preventative measure, restriction have been instated in the Greater Vancouver Regional District since 1993 in an effort to sustain the area’s water supply. Smaller than average snow packs combined with higher than normal temperatures can have a dramatic negative effect on water sources.

Squamish employs a multi-phase approach in applying its bylaw. The community is advised of the changes to the bylaw through radio and newspaper ads.

Phase one allows even-numbered street addresses to water any time on even numbered days of the month, with odd-numbered addresses able to hose down on the odd numbered dates. The second phase, under which the community is currently operating, allows even-numbered street addresses watering privileges any time on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Odd-numbered street addresses can soak their lawns on Thursdays and Sundays. The third, and final phase, allows even numbered street addresses to water on Wednesday and Saturdays from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Odd numbered street addresses can crank up their sprinklers during the same hours on Thursdays and Sunday.

This graduated approach to water restrictions has been very effective according to Acting Mayor Sonja Lebans.

"The summer water restrictions have been going on for a number of years," says Lebans. "People expect it. They think it’s a good way to be environmentally correct – which it is. Taking care of the environment is what we’re trying to do."

When the restrictions were first put in place it was purely conservation motivated because the water was piped in through streams. While much of Squamish’s water supply has been upgraded to a system of wells and pumps, Lebans maintains that conservation remains important because of the environmental impact and cost of maintaining the new system.

Whistler’s water restrictions are the same as phase three of Squamish’s. However, Whistler residents may water outside the sanctioned times by purchasing a permit through the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s engineering department. The aim of the $30 permits is to assist people who have recently seeded lawns. The permit covers the entire enforcement period.

Failure to comply with the bylaw can result in a fine of up to $2,000. However, to date, no one in Whistler has been subjected to a fine. Marcus Samer of RMOW’s Bylaw Services attributes this to an educational approach.

"Give us the address of someone not complying and we’ll go out and do some education," suggests Samer.

That education consists of a conversation with the person, who may be unaware of the water restrictions, and backing it up with an educational pamphlet. It’s an approach that has proven effective.

"So far I’ve had no negative responses," says Samer. "The pamphlets have been met with lots of curiosity. We are perceived to have an abundance of water."

Lebans confirmed that Squamish has had similar experiences.

"A bylaw officer I know said he has two to three dozen incidents (of non-compliance this year) and mostly these were people who were unaware of the bylaw," she says. "He talked to them, gave them a brochure and explained why the program was important. No one objected or gave him a bad time."

Approximately 1,300 litres of water are used when watering the average lawn for one-hour. This same amount of water could wash five loads of dishes; five loads of laundry and flush 25 toilets.

The watering of flowerbeds or vegetable gardens is exempted under these bylaws.