British Columbia

Watering restrictions mean tickets for Metro Vancouver water hogs

Hundreds of water hogs across Metro Vancouver who continue to ignore watering restrictions have been warned to shut off their offending sprinklers or pay the price.

The district imposed Stage 2 water restrictions last week, but many residents are not getting the message

Lawn watering is targeted first in Metro Vancouver water restrictions, because it has a big impact and is not essential. (Amanda Marcotte/CBC)

Hundreds of water hogs across Metro Vancouver who continue to ignore watering restrictions have been warned to shut off their offending sprinklers or pay the price.

So far the City of Vancouver has issued five tickets for $250 and 755 warnings, according to city spokesperson Patricia MacNeil.

But she warns, with the new restrictions in place, first-time offenders will now be getting tickets, rather than warnings.

"With Metro Vancouver's advancement to stage 2, if bylaw enforcement witnesses non-compliance they will issue a ticket which carries a fine of $250 for each offence," said MacNeil.

The District of North Vancouver has issued 77 warnings and one ticket.

Richmond has logged 130 complaints, resulting in 19 warnings and four tickets.

A record-breaking hot and dry May and June has left Metro Vancouver's water reservoirs at 75 per cent — levels usually seen in late July or August — and Stage 2 water restrictions limit lawn watering to one day a week for all properties.

"It's really unprecedented in terms of the conditions we've seen," said Marilyn Towill, a manager with Metro Vancouver's water services department.

Tighter restrictions rolling out

Despite the restrictions, water use is still increasing, to 1.6 billion litres a day, according to Metro Vancouver figures.

That means Stage 3 restrictions — which prohibit all lawn watering with drinkable water — may come to Metro Vancouver this summer, depending on the weather and how people respond.

"If those things don't come together, then we would consider moving to an additional stage," said Towill.

Some parts of B.C., including Salt Spring Island, Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island, are already in Stage 3 drought.

And some parts of the island are under Stage 4 today, which means all lawn watering is banned. They include the Nanaimo Regional District — which does not include the City of Nanaimo — and the City of Parksville.

The Cowichan Valley and Comox Valley are also both at their maximum level of water restriction.

Victoria, meanwhile, remains at Stage 1.

In summer months, between half and three-quarters of potable water used is sprayed on lawns, according to Environment Canada.

That's why drought plans target grassy lawns first in their water restrictions.

"We first focus on those non-essential uses ... what are the things we can reduce without impacting business or commercial," said Towill.

Delta uses the most water per person in the region

According to the most recent numbers available from Metro Vancouver, the municipality of Delta uses the most water — a whopping 632 litres per person, per day.

Source: Metro Vancouver, 2013. Note: Delta, Maple Ridge, Surrey and West Vancouver have their own secondary water source.

But, the water use can't all be blamed on massive green lawns.

Those numbers include industrial use, which would be large in a municipality like Delta, with a port, cement plant and other heavy industry.

Residents account for roughly 60 per cent of water use, while 40 per cent is industrial or commercial use, but Towill couldn't provide a further breakdown.

You couldn't carry the amount of water you use

Even if we just look at residential use, Canadians use a whopping 335 litres of water per day for household and gardening purposes, according to Environment Canada.

Just ten per cent of that is for drinking and cooking.

To get a picture of how much water gets used each day, 335 litres would fill more than 17 big water cooler bottles.

Try carrying that around.

Canadians use an average of 335 L of water per person per day in their homes, according to Environment Canada, which would fill more than 17 19-litre water cooler bottles. Click for full size image. (Lisa Johnson/CBC)

Thursdays in July are the worst for water use

July is the peak time for water use in Metro Vancouver.

Since 1965, the peak day for water use in the region has mostly been in July. In 2013, it was July 25.

Interestingly, there's also a pattern with the days of the week.

The top day of water use has never fallen on a Saturday, in the 48 years with records available, but has hit on Thursdays 29 per cent of the time.