Outdoor Potable Water Use Bylaw gets first readings 

River Forecast Centre prepares for spring melt

click to flip through (2) WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM. - WATER WISE Whistler's reworked Outdoor Potable Water Use Bylaw received first three readings at the April 10 council meeting.
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  • WATER WISE Whistler's reworked Outdoor Potable Water Use Bylaw received first three readings at the April 10 council meeting.
 

A bylaw updating how Whistler's outdoor potable water is used received first three readings at the April 10 council meeting.

The bylaw has gone through some hefty community consultation and revision since an early draft was discussed last summer.

The major difference between the new bylaw and what's currently in place is that the new bylaw is much more specific in respect to water uses, bringing clarity to the community and making enforcement easier.

The new bylaw considers that about 80 to 100 per cent of private and public irrigation systems within the RMOW are professionally installed and managed, and use sensor-driven automated systems.

New "Water Conservation Stages" are not the same as the former Water Restriction Levels, and are not being automatically activated by a certain date.

"This is a departure from how we were managing water conservation stages in the past," said utilities group manager Gillian Woodward in a presentation to council.

"So I need to be clear about that, because there was some confusion over automatically going into Stage 2 restrictions in June, for example. That's no longer the case."

The new Water Conservation Stages are a year-round guideline intended to encourage water conservation at all times.

The decision to move to the next conservation stage will be determined using local and provincial data sets, and considers a number of factors, including the amount of water in reservoirs needed for firefighting, the fire danger rating and the weather forecast.

A new colour-coded chart clearly lays out the conservation stages, and weekly updates on the water situation will be provided on the municipal website.

Municipal operations are not exempt from the bylaw, but an exemption has been included for sports fields.

"If failure to (water) will result in permanent loss of turf, we may consider watering for an additional window just so that it doesn't result in those costs to reinstate those fields," Woodward said.

Councillor Steve Anderson asked if there was some way to override automatic sprinklers that operate while it's raining—a major pet peeve among many in the community.

In response, general manager of resort experience Jan Jansen noted that in most cases, it's not the municipality's sprinklers that people are reporting.

("When) we investigate it, generally, they're not our sprinklers," Jansen said. "In those instances, we do communicate with the property manager and the property owner and notify them that they need to manage their system better."

Another complaint the RMOW often hears is that they're "watering the pavement" in the middle of the night—though not by design, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden noted.

"I've heard from a staff member that vandals like to kick the heads off the irrigation things, which sets them off and inevitably turns them around and gets them watering pavement," she said.

Some in the community decried the original draft of the bylaw, which proposed changes amounting to a 25-per-cent reduction in allowed watering time (with 50 per cent of that being during daylight hours when watering is often inappropriate), and limiting watering to two days a week.

But the new approach has drawn praise from stakeholders.

"We had a lot of not very happy people last year around this time," Wilhem-Morden said.

"And so backing off, taking a new approach—I was at the open house a couple of weeks ago and received nothing but kudos from irrigation people, homeowners, people from our parks department, so excellent job, thank you."

Meanwhile, the provincial River Forecast Centre (RFC) is awaiting the annual spring freshet season, which typically occurs from mid to late April.

About 95 per cent of the average mountain snowpack had accumulated as of April 1, said Jonathan Boyd, RFC hydrologist, in an April 9 conference call.

The South Coast region was at 120 per cent of normal on April 1, down from 128 a month before.

"The South Coast is less likely to be as effected by freshet and snow melts, but there are a couple of rivers—the Squamish River and the Lillooet River—that can sometimes be a concern," Boyd said, adding that weather patterns during the snow-melt season play a critical role in whether flooding occurs.

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