As of today the Cowichan Valley is under stage 3 watering restrictions the Cowichan Valley Regional District announced.
"We are trying to encourage a culture of conservation," said CVRD chair Jon Lefebure. "Because of climate change we definitely need to be concerned about our use of water and in the summer months when it is quite apparent that we have less water available we need to be careful with it."
The move to stage 3 comes as the province moved Vancouver Island from a Level 3 to a Level 4 drought rating, recommending a target of maximum water use reduction.
Stage 3 restrictions take some water usage off the table entirely for residents. People are not allowed to water lawns, wash cars or boats, driveways, sidewalks or houses, unless preparing surfaces for painting or preservatives or to prepare to pour concrete or asphalt.
Residents are also forbidden to fill swimming pools and hot tubs unless they’re only topping up the water level, and fountains and ponds that don’t re-circulate water must be turned off.
Municipalities and the school district will be limiting watering of playing fields, only using enough to avoid having to do costly replacements of turf in the fall. What is allowed is hand watering of gardens, trees and shrubs with a hose with a spring-loaded nozzle, watering bucket, or pail for a maximum of two hours per day, 6-8 a.m. or 8-10 p.m. People with micro-drip irrigation systems
can still water their gardens, trees and shrubs at any time to a maximum of four hours per day.
For more information about restrictions go to your local government website.
"Where we’re really suffering is in our rivers," Lefebure said, emphasizing that while flows in the Chemainus, Cowichan and Koksilah rivers have dropped to alarming levels, domestic water supplies are not under threat of drying up, as long as use is responsible.
That doesn’t mean people should ignore restrictions and open up the taps, however, he said.
With climate change the Valley faces an uncertain future when it comes to water, Lefebure said. The main aquifers relied on by Cowichan’s municipalities do recharge annually, but residents can’t take water for granted. Individuals on wells have been experiencing much more drastic lowering of water levels he said, and we’re still just learning about the connections between the area’s major rivers and aquifers.
"As long as we use our water responsibly we believe we will be able to take care of that domestic water supply," he said.
There’s another good reason to try to help keep reservoirs high, Lefebure said: fire.
Local fire departments count on these reservoirs to fight fires, and with smoke obscuring the sky its easy to see how vital this service is.
"We want to keep these reservoirs as high as we can. Conservation helps us with that," he said.