Vancouver’s unrestrained use of fresh water on lawns should raise eyebrows after weeks without rain
Tonight I left a relative’s home on Vancouver’s West Side where we talked about lawn sprinkling. In the background we listened to the cha-cha-cha-cha–ch-ch-ch-ch of an oscillating lawn sprinkler next door. In all the years I’ve visited here, that neighbour’s watering has been a regular irritation. The lawn watering (and surrounding garden beds) get a regular dosing every day. In years gone by that sprinkler has been running ALL day.
As we drove home tonight it seemed like every second or third home were running lawn sprinking systems.
Vancouver has not had any substantial rain in months. We love the warm, dry weather of course, but it’s a response to our miserably damp and cool winters and springtime. There is something very revealing about how different households use our limited water resource that reveals a lot about the people inside. Frankly, to be dousing an established lawn over the past few weeks is a thoroughly thoughtless act, that even "upstanding" citizens like to engage in.
For most it’s all about aesthetics. Nobody likes a brown lawn when with unmonitored sprinkling you can have green. Metro Vancouver, which sets the standards for water use in our cities, is a toothless tiger. There is little if any enforcement for abuse. Few of us want to risk the wrath of neighbours by raising concerns with civic officials. Water metering, which might allow some of us to actually account for our usage, is too expensive to implement citywide.
So what can we do?
First of all, when we have record low precipitation for months, and only one short spell of rainfall in a month, somebody at Metro Vancouver should be given the authority to raise water restriction levels as needed. Perhaps our reservoirs are overflowing, but somehow I doubt this. This measure will create a heightened consciousness in the public, and perhaps shame some water abusers into better habits.
Water advisories should be regularly distributed by city governments just like during times of increased turbidity. The public should be made aware of the risks of overwatering.
Citizenship is a precious commodity, and it tends to lose out to selfishness. City governments should work more diligently to remind all of us of our responsibilities as residents here.
For those who somehow are not aware of the rules around watering in Metro Vancouver, here’s a link for you and the text below from Metro Vancouver’s website:
Lawn sprinkling: a key summer reduction
In summer demand for treated water almost doubles in the Lower Mainland (mostly due to outdoor use) at the same time that rainfall is the lowest. These restrictions help reduce the rate of water consumption and lower the risk of reservoir levels being depleted.
The regulations restrict lawn sprinkling during the summer months to manage demand for drinking water. The lawn sprinkling regulations have been in place since 1993 and are part of the regional Water Shortage Response Plan that mostly outlines measures to reduce demand for outdoor use.
- Newly-planted lawns will be allowed to be watered outside of restricted times only with a special permit from your municipality
- Watering of flower and vegetable gardens, decorative planters, shrubs and trees
- Filling of pools, spas, water play parks and fountains
- Washing of cars or boats using spring-loaded shutoff
- Sports playing fields and school yards
- Lawns at golf courses and turf farms
- Artificial turf requiring wetting and outdoor tracks requiring hosing for dust control or safety