With only 10 millimetres of rain forecast during the next five days, don’t expect the Sunshine Coast Regional District’s ban on outside watering to be lifted anytime soon, the SCRD’s general manager of infrastructure services said Wednesday.
“I’m crossing my fingers, but I’m pretty disappointed by the latest forecast,” Bryan Shoji told Coast Reporter.
Environment Canada was predicting between 10 mm and 100 mm of rain would fall between Friday, Oct. 12, and Tuesday, Oct. 16. “And they’re saying we’re going to be in the 10 mm range. They’re predicting most of it is going north,” Shoji said. “If we only get 10 mm, we’re going to have to keep this ban in place.”
The ban on all outdoor water use went into effect on Friday, Oct. 5, for the Sunshine Coast south of Pender Harbour.
The unprecedented stage 4 watering restrictions, imposed due to the longest drought to hit the area in recorded history, apply until further notice.
While consumption has dropped about 50 per cent since stage 3 restrictions were enacted last month, residential users are not the only ones making sacrifices, Shoji said.
Major water users ranging from gravel processors to the school district have voluntarily cut back, and car washes in the region were contacted by SCRD staff and “are doing whatever they can to minimize their water consumption,” Shoji said.
“But we’re not asking any businesses that are reliant on water to shut down their business,” he added.
The issue of car washes operating during a prolonged drought was raised during the SCRD’s Oct. 4 infrastructure services committee meeting, with Shoji conceding that “the optics for car washes are not good.”
Shoji’s plans to declare stage 4 watering restrictions effective Tuesday, Oct. 9, were revised at the Oct. 4 meeting after Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) director Keith Julius urged directors to act immediately.
“Why wait till Tuesday?” Julius asked, noting that SIB had effectively been on stage 4 restrictions for four weeks.
While staff said communications and enforcement would not be fully ready until Tuesday, and some directors argued the public should be given a chance to prepare, in the end Julius’s motion carried unanimously and stage 4 was declared the next day.
Julius also pressed staff to move immediately on ordering equipment to start pumping water from Chapman Lake.
On Wednesday, Shoji said the pumps had been lined up and a deployment plan was in place, complete with an offer from the province to fly up SCRD staff by helicopter.
But, he added, he was still hoping to avoid flying in pumps due to the “substantial risk” involved, the possibility of mechanical malfunctions and the logistics of operating the system 24 hours a day.
“If the forecast said it was going to be dry for the next three weeks, then we’d look at flying pumps up there,” he said.
To illustrate the severity of the drought, Shoji noted that normally the area receives about 50 mm of rain per month in August and September, but since July 4 had received only 13 mm.
As of Wednesday, the SCRD water supply was sitting at about 25 per cent capacity, he said, and plans were in the works for staff to fly to Chapman Lake the next day to maximize water storage during the rain event by tapping into Edwards Lake.
SCRD staff have also been monitoring fish flows in the low water, Shoji said.
“We’re still able to maintain our fish flows in the creek and we intend to keep doing so,” he said.
Residents, meanwhile, are being asked to continue their water conservation efforts and abide by stage 4 guidelines.
Under stage 4 restrictions, water cannot be used to fill residential swimming pools, hot tubs, wading pools, garden ponds or fountains, or to wash driveways, sidewalks, vehicles, boats or other equipment. Use of power washers is also banned.
The restrictions also prohibit the use of hand-held hoses and watering cans, as well as irrigation systems or sprinklers to water lawns, gardens, newly laid grass or seed.