May 24, 2024
Taps will be turned off for residents who defy water restrictions in drought-stricken B.C. city | CBC News

Taps will be turned off for residents who defy water restrictions in drought-stricken B.C. city | CBC News

Extreme drought conditions and the likelihood of another challenging fire season have prompted a community in one of the driest parts of the province to start managing its water supply early — and turning off the taps for people who don’t follow the rules. 

The City of Merritt has announced water restrictions — that the mayor says wouldn’t usually be considered until mid-July — in an effort to conserve water ahead of wildfire season and get people in the habit of using less. 

Level 3 watering restrictions are in effect, limiting lawn and garden watering to two times per week, on designated days depending on numbered addresses. Hand watering and washing is allowed any time. 

Mayor Michael Goetz said he’s anxious about the months ahead, knowing the snowpack is the lowest ever recorded at this time of year. 

According to Agriculture Canada, the Merritt area, about 200 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, is facing a severe drought. The agency describes river levels as “significantly low.”

A low river
Water conservation efforts are already underway in Merritt, B.C., as experts forecast another hot, dry summer. (Julie Landry/Radio-Canada)

By starting at Level 3 now, Goetz hopes the city won’t have to enact tougher restrictions later in the year. 

The city draws from two aquifers, according to Goetz: one about 73 metres below ground and a second about 152 metres below ground.

“With our aquifer, it’s a guessing game because we really don’t know how much is down there,” he said, adding that the area is a semi-desert.

“We err on the side of caution to make sure that we have enough water to get us through the hotter times, because it gets hot here,” said Goetz.

Water could be shut off

In previous years, the city has fined people who haven’t followed watering restrictions. But now, officials say they plan to shut homeowners’ water down if they don’t follow the rules.

First, Goetz said, rule-breakers will be given a letter explaining the situation and asking them not to do it again. But if they continue, he said, water could be shut off for that person’s property. 

“Paying a fine doesn’t really do much because people pay the fine and then they continue with their bad behaviour,” Goetz said. 

Mixed reaction

Linda Warner, a Merritt resident, said she’s thrilled the city is being proactive about conserving water now, rather than reacting when things are hot and dry. 

“It’s going to bring awareness and help everyone to conserve water,” she said.

Warner has a garden, but plans to water by hand and even says she’ll go as so far as letting her lawn die, and just keep her shrubs and vegetables watered.

“The grass is gonna die anyways over the summer, so why bother watering it now? Just let it go dormant. It’ll come back when the rains come back.”

But neighbour Diana Boston disagrees. 

A woman in purple and a woman in red kneel down and sift through dirt and plants in a pot
Diana Boston, left, plans to water her vegetable garden by hand through the coming months, but worries the restrictions may be too hasty. (Julie Landry/Radio-Canada)

She, too, has moved her garden into plant pots and will water by hand, but Boston said not everyone has that opportunity. 

“If we want to water our plants, we have to stand right here with the hose for hours,” she said. “It’s not feasible, especially for the elders.”

Boston said “it doesn’t make any sense,” because fire restrictions haven’t been introduced in the area yet. 

“If I want to have a fire, I need to have access to my water,” she said.

She’s also concerned with the plan to shut water off if people aren’t obeying the rules. 

“[Water] is a necessity, it’s a need. It’s not a privilege, it’s a right,” Boston said. “If they’re going to shut the water off, I mean, I don’t think it’s humanely right.”

A man wearing a grey hoodie stands in front of a sign that says City Hall
Merritt, B.C., Mayor Michael Goetz said he’s anxious about another dry, hot summer. (Frederic Gagnon/Radio-Canada)

But Goetz said the whole point is to make sure there’s water later in the season, when things could be more dire.

“We’ll monitor it very carefully,” Goetz said.

“It’s really simple. If you don’t have water, you don’t have a town. It’s that simple. It’s over.”

Source link