Municipal bylaw to regulate water usage 

‘Sprinkler’ regulations the first step on a long list of conservation measures

In an effort to conserve water, the Resort Municipality of Whistler is taking a page out of the City of Vancouver’s bylaws and restricting the days and times that residents can activate their sprinkler systems.

"It’s part of a water management plan that’s been around since Terry Rogers was mayor," Councilor Ken Melamed told attendees of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) monthly meeting on July 5.

"Along with water metering, it includes a number of initiatives to reduce water consumption. This one thing is expected to reduce consumption in the summer months by 10 per cent."

Water Use Regulation Bylaw No. 1538 was carried through a third reading at council’s July 3 meeting, and is expected to adopted by the RMOW at the July 16 session. Once it officially becomes a bylaw, the RMOW will roll it out to the public over the following weeks.

Whistler residents will be restricted to watering their lawns on set days, at set times from June 1 to September 30, which makes it easier for the bylaw department to enforce.

In Level I conditions, when water availability is normal, even numbered houses will be restricted to operating sprinkler systems on Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. in the mornings and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the evenings. Odd numbered houses will be restricted to Thursdays and Saturdays at the same times.

In Level II situations, when water levels are lower, sprinkling will be cut back to Wednesdays and Thursdays, and there will be further restrictions on water use, i.e. no washing washing cars or spraying sidewalks. Stricter conditions apply for Level III water shortages.

"We don’t expect to start cracking down immediately, people will be given time to get used to this system," says Melamed. "It was the experience in Vancouver that over time people would get into the sprinkler regulations and the reasons behind it, and start watching their neighbours. If someone refused to comply, they would call the bylaw department. The program has been very successful in other municipalities."

Other water conservation initiatives in the works include the mandatory installation of water meters at all new construction projects. In Whistler, residents currently pay a flat rate annually for water and sewerage, while other municipalities charge monthly based on consumption – this usually prompts people to monitor their own water consumption voluntarily. While the municipality has no plans to switch to a metered system in the near future, it could be an option in the future.

The RMOW is also reducing its own treated water consumption. Automated sprinkler and irrigation systems can now be activated and deactivated by phone. In the past, when the system was fully automated, it was not unheard of for municipal sprinklers to be on during a rain storm.

In addition to conservation, the municipality is looking into the possibility of using untreated water sources for sprinkling and irrigation.

Whistler’s three golf courses already use their own water sources, taking water out of reservoirs for sprinkling and irrigation and then collecting the runoff to be used again.

"Ideally, we can tap into some of our natural water sources and reduce some of the wear and tear on our water treatment facilities," says Melamed.

Another option for conserving water that the municipality is looking at for the future is ‘naturescaping’ – using indigenous species in Whistler’s parks and recreation areas that are better adapted to the local environment than imported species that may require more water and maintenance.

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