British Columbia

Water restrictions: how to confront water hoggers with grace

If green lawns in your neighbourhood are causing frustration, you might want to think twice before you go knocking on your neighbour's door.

Carey McBeth explains how to gently remind your neighbour there are water restrictions in effect

With water restrictions in effect, etiquette expert Carey McBeth says to first approach your neighbour with a 'courtesy call.' (Margaret Gallagher)

If green lawns in your neighbourhood are causing frustration, you might want to think twice before you go knocking on your neighbour's door. 

Etiquette expert Carey McBeth says there are ways in which you can approach your neighbour without damaging the relationship.

According to the stage 2 water restrictions, residential homes can only sprinkle their lawns one day a week. But not everyone abides by these rules, which can leave frustrated neighbours with the urge to shame those with green lawns.

North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto, who is the chair of Metro Vancouver utilities committee, says if you have concerns, call your city hall.

"Municipalities are set up to deal with that, so they can take control of the situation. It's best to avoid confrontation," he said.

But with well over 800 recent calls to Vancouver City Hall, some residents might want to act themselves rather than waiting for a bylaw officer.

Here are the things to keep in mind when approaching your water hogging neighbour:

1. Start with 'courtesy call'

You can come across as non-confrontational if you come over and gently remind them that there are water restrictions in effect, with many by-law officers. State that you are simply reminding them because you don't want them to get in trouble.

"It's more of a courtesy visit, than, 'you're doing this wrong'. The second you do that, they are going to go on the offensive and it's not going to go well," McBeth says.

2. If things get heated…

"If things start to escalate, walk away," McBeth advises.

Remember to always be polite and say you are sorry, reiterating you just wanted to warn them.

"You don't want to get into a very uncomfortable situation with your neighbour, you have to live next to them."

3. Beware of leaving notes

"Know that there is no tone or fluctuation in a note, so it can be misread quite easily," McBeth says.

Because of this, she suggests that you should always read letters and emails out loud with no tone in order to get a grasp on how it will sound to the receiver. 

4. Don't use social media to shame others

You may have noticed some social media trends pertaining to those who have green and luscious lawns, particularly the new trending hashtags: #grasshole and #dontbeagrasshole.

McBeth is not a fan of this tactic.

"Proper etiquette states that you never ever say anything negative about anybody else," she says.

"Once you tweet something out, it's gone and it's gone for good, so unless you want it to come back to you personally, I would mind what you do online."

5. The last resort

If you are not big on confrontations, either in person or on paper, but still feel that your neighbours need to be reminded about the water restrictions, "do not feel uncomfortable with calling to state that your neighbour is doing something inappropriate," says McBeth.

To hear the full interview click: Etiquette expert explains how to approach water hogging neighbours.

With files from Margaret Gallagher