The Sunshine Coast Regional District has imposed a Stage 4 water restriction for some of its residents, starting Friday.
Until further notice, community members in the Chapman and Eastbourne water systems will be barred from outdoor water usage. That includes watering lawns and plants, washing vehicles and boats, washing driveways and homes, and filling swimming pools or other outdoor water amenities, such as ponds.
Stage 4 is the most severe water restriction that can be imposed. Affected communities include Secret Cove, Halfmoon Bay, Sechelt, Selma Park, Wilson Creek and Roberts Creek.
A property that is classified as farmland under the B.C. Assessment Authority Act, that is paying a metered rate for water, is exempt from Stage 4 water conservation regulations for a two-week period.
The entire region is under a Drought Level 5 advisory, and the B.C. government warns adverse impacts on local ecosystems are almost certain.
Sechelt Mayor John Henderson said the region needs to update its water supply systems to address these issues for future drought seasons.
“We have faced for many years a lack of water supply. We are very fortunate that we have lots of water, we just haven’t been able to harness enough of it,” Henderson told Global News.
“In the last few years, the problems have been more severe with longer and longer drought periods. It was a dire situation last fall and we are facing something similar this year.”
Henderson said the area needs short-term and long-term solutions.
“Long-term options will take a long time. We need world-class experts and time to construct things like reservoirs and access lakes,” he said.
“But between now and then, we need some short-term solutions. We need answers now.”
Henderson said he has reached out to the province for help but has yet to hear back.
Two other water systems in the Sunshine Coast region are also under water restrictions.
The South Pender Harbour Water System is under Stage 3 regulations. That means community members can only water trees and plants with a hand-held hose with a nozzle or a hand-held container for one hour a day. Lawn watering and watering food-producing plants with a sprinkler, soaker hose, or micro-spray are not permitted.
Vehicles and boats can only be washed to remove sea water, and filling pools, washing homes and driveways is not permitted.
Watering food-producing plants and trees with a hand-held container, nozzle, or drip irrigation is permitted for two hours a day.
And lastly, the North Pender Harbour Water System is under a Stage 1 water restriction. That means residents can water their lawns twice a week, and can water trees and plants three times a week.
While the situation on B.C.’s fire front is improving, Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Minister Bowinn Ma said Thursday that the province remains in a dire drought situation.
“It is unlike any kind of drought conditions the province has ever faced, and in my opinion, truly is a sleeping giant of a natural disaster that we are challenged with right now — the impacts will be very, very real,” Ma said.
“I don’t say these things to scare people, but it is important for us to really understand how serious of a drought situation we are in, and why, when we take the measures we do to put in water and fish protection orders, we only do it because it is necessary.”
Ma said drought conditions remain high across the province, with effects already being felt by ecosystems, industry, ranchers and farmers. Spawning fish could be particularly threatened by low river levels, she said, adding that action was already being taken in those areas.
The province has been working with communities on water restrictions and with water licensees on voluntary water use cuts since April, she said.
— With files from Simon Little.