Sechelt, B.C. residents strained by Sunshine Coast drought restrictions

Click to play video: 'Drought conditions impact Sunshine Coast drinking water'
Drought conditions impact Sunshine Coast drinking water
The drought situation in the Sunshine Coast Regional District is worsening, with 22,000 people now with significantly reduced access to water. As Aaron McArthur tells us, this level four drought comes after weeks of tighter restrictions – Oct 4, 2022

As the Sunshine Coast experiences a stretch of dry weather, residents are feeling the heat from restrictions aimed at conserving water.

Parts of the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) have been under stage three and four water regulations since the end of August. That includes a ban on all outdoor use of drinking water, meaning no lawn-watering, no sprinklers, no boat or car-washing, and no filling of pools or fountains.

Rule-breakers can face hundreds of dollars in fines.

“The situation at the moment is pretty dire,” said Remko Rosenboom, SCRD director of emergency operations. “Assuming we don’t have rain … we have enough water until early November.”

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The Chapman watershed, the region’s primary water source, has “completely dried up,” Rosenboom said. The district is siphoning water from two other alpine lakes, but those water levels are lower than they have ever been as well, he added.

If it doesn’t rain soon, it could become difficult to provide water for emergency services, such as hospitals and firefighting, Rosenboom explained.

“All kinds of options are being explored and planned for,” he added.

Click to play video: 'B.C. sees driest September ever according to preliminary data'
B.C. sees driest September ever according to preliminary data

Under Stage 4 restrictions, farmers who pay a metered rate for water receive a two-week exemption to water their crops. That exemption has now expired.

At the Heart and Sol Coastal Farm in Sechelt, even the emergency reserves — two barrels with 10,000 gallons of water each — are now dwindling, co-owners Julie and Socrates Carrillo told Global News.

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“We’re starting to run dry at this point and in a couple of days we’re going to really be needing to look for external water if we’re going to keep our crops going,” Julie said.

“We’re trying to stay positive but it’s been a hard season to be honest with you.”

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There hasn’t been a significant dump of rain on the Sunshine Coast since the beginning of July.

Socrates said the drought season has gotten longer since the couple started the farm three years ago. That has meant more and more crops are “behind.”

“It’s hard to deal with (global warming),” he explained. “We’re trying to reduce the impact from other commercial farms, but it’s hard too because we rely on water and sunny days.”

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The farm is letting a row of tomatoes go this week because there isn’t enough water to go around.

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“There are rows and rows and rows of food we could have planted, but we can’t now because we know the plants are tender, delicate and young — we wouldn’t make it through the drought,” Julie said.

“Carrots, lettuce, all kinds of things — root vegetables that could have been growing right now aren’t. Basically, we saved the water we had to keep our high-value crops going, our tomatoes, our peppers.”

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Area residents have reduced their water consumption by about half under the restrictions. The Town of Gibsons is currently supplying about three per cent of the district’s water.

This is the second year in a row the SCRD has set up an emergency operations centre to deal with drought.

“What we need is several days of good, steady rain. One big rain event is not doing it,” Rosenboom said. “First, the sponge needs to fill up before it’s actually releasing water to the watershed.”

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Meanwhile, the Carrillos say they will do their best to keep the crops alive and healthy. They might consider buying another reserve barrel next year, depending on this year’s bill, they added.

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“It’s really sad for us as farmers because it’s how we make a living, but for everybody who grows their own food in their yard, this impacts our community significantly,” Julie said.

“Having access to local food I think is one of the most important things we can be targeting at the moment.”

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