British Columbia

Sunshine Coast watering restrictions may threaten food security, says farmer

Under Stage 4 restrictions, backyard gardeners on the Sunshine Coast will not be allowed to water their crops with fresh water, leading some to worry about the local food supply.

Exemptions granted only to designated farms with meters, not backyard growers

Backyard gardeners in the Sunshine Coast Regional District will have to resort to grey water starting August 13, when new drought restrictions come into effect. (Getty Images)

Local farmers on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast are worried the district's heightened, Stage 4 watering restrictions will threaten regional food security.

The Sunshine Coast Regional District, or SCRD, has declared the strictest possible water restrictions, banning nearly all commercial use of water and residential outdoor tap use effective Thursday, Aug. 13.

Under these restrictions, many local vegetable gardeners will not be allowed to water their crops with fresh water. 

Backyard growers hung out to dry?

Roberts Creek farmer Annette Clarke led a delegation of about 50 concerned residents to the SCRD board of directors at the end of July, asking that all local food production be exempt from watering restrictions.

But the board only granted an exemption for officially designated farms equipped with water meters.  

While backyard growers will be able to use grey water, Clarke said this won't be much help to residents with larger gardens.

"Food prices went up quite a bit already and will go up. Some people might not be able to afford food anymore, especially healthy, local food won't be available if you're not allowed to grow your own," she said.  

District denies impact on food security

But Bruce Milne, Mayor of Sechelt and one of the board's directors, said these restrictions will not have a significant effect on food security. 

"We know lots of people have backyard gardens. I have one myself. The fact is that I don't rely on my backyard garden for subsistence food." 

He said the district's top priorities at this stage are human health and drinking water, firefighting capabilities and environmental habitat. 

Clarke said the regional district needs to reconsider how it structures watering restrictions.

"The downfall, really, is that all outdoor use for water is classified as non-essential. Every indoor water use is classified as essential.

"Theoretically, you could use water indoors [as much as] you like. There's no restriction on that. Outdoor water is totally forbidden. I think that has to change."

She added that farming should not be grouped in with car washes and golf courses, since food security should be a higher priority.

There is no end date to the water ban, as the district expects the hot, dry weather to continue into the fall.

To hear the full interview with Annette Clarke, listen to the audio labelled: Sunshine Coast watering restrictions threaten food security, says farmer.


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