Dave Quail wants to know why some businesses in the Cowichan area seem to be allowed to water their green spaces at any time with as much water as they want while other residents have to comply with water restrictions during the ongoing drought.
Quail said there is at least one resort on Shawnigan Lake and a long-term care facility in Duncan that he has seen with water sprinklers going for hours outside of allowed times to water their gardens and lawns.
He said he has changed his work schedule so he can water his lawn between the hours of 7-9 a.m. or 7-9 p.m., the only times allowed while Stage 3 water restrictions are in place, and wonders why he has to comply with the regulations and the businesses apparently do not.
“Water is a precious resource, especially during a drought, and it’s frustrating to see it get wasted this way,” Quail said.
“I’ve brought this to the attention of the Cowichan Valley Regional District but there has been no action to stop this. I’m sure if I was to water my lawn at all times of the day, it would be a completely different story. The CVRD’s bylaw officers are turning a blind eye to these flagrant violations of the water restrictions. There’s a double standard here.”
Brian Dennison, the CVRD’s manager of water management, acknowledged the district had received complaints regarding the irrigation practices at the resort.
“I can’t discuss a bylaw enforcement action, but can say we have spent some significant effort carefully considering the issue and will follow through appropriately,” he said.
Dennison said the CVRD has received other complaints, inquiries and clarifications regarding the water restrictions this year.
He said, based on the feedback, the district needs to review its definitions for drip-irrigation systems which could use some greater clarity.
“I would say that in general, people are quite aware of the drought this summer and are quite willing to do the right thing and want to be clear what it is, but also want to see that we’re all in it together with everyone doing their part,” Dennison said.
“I view water, in both its highs and lows, as a super important and, with increasing climate change, a growing issue world wide. In our Valley, there is increasing conflict between human needs and wants and environmental necessities. I believe we are going to have to change our relationship with water very substantially and look to new ideas as the future unfolds.”
Brian Murphy, Duncan’s director of public works and engineering, said this is the first complaint he has heard about the water usage at the long-term care facility, and he encourages people to contact the property owners themselves or to call the city with any such complaints.
“We will ask [our bylaw officers] to keep an eye out at that location and I will contact the building manager there,” Murphy said.
“We haven’t received any other complaints, as far as I am aware, and appreciate the public’s cooperation with the watering restrictions, which apply within Duncan and in the adjacent regions. Maintaining a balanced water system during low-flow periods for the Cowichan River is very important.”
The Cowichan Valley, along with most of eastern Vancouver Island and southern B.C., is at drought Level 4, and as a result all water systems in the Cowichan region have been subject to Stage 3 water restrictions since July 16.
Under Stage 3 restrictions, the use of sprinklers is not permitted, nor is the washing of vehicles and homes, or the filling of pools and hot tubs.
Hand watering of trees, shrubs and gardens may be done for a maximum of two hours per day, between the hours of 7-9 a.m. or 7-9 p.m. and the use of micro or drip-irrigation systems are permitted anytime for a maximum of four hours per day.
The restrictions apply to water systems serviced by the CVRD, local municipalities, Cowichan Tribes, Stz’uminus First Nation, Cowichan Bay Improvement District and Mill Bay Waterworks District.
Low rainfall this spring and the wave of extreme heat in late June and into July have caused these conditions.
“Water conservation is everyone’s responsibility,” a recent release from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said.
“Aggressive conservation is being urged for all areas affected by drought. Residential, agricultural and industrial water users in areas affected by drought should observe all water conservation bylaws, watering restrictions and advice from their local government, irrigation district or water utility.”
The ministry is asking residents to limit their outdoor watering, to take shorter showers and install water-efficient taps and appliances, while farmers are asked to time irrigation to weather conditions, crop needs and soil storage capacity, and focus on high-value crops and livestock.
Industry is asked to reduce non-essential water use, recycle used water, and use water efficient methods and equipment.