The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has announced new sprinkling restrictions for all commercial and residential properties in anticipation of another hot, dry summer.
In effect from June 1 until Sept. 30, the RMOW is going straight to Level 2 restrictions, limiting sprinkling to the hours of 4 to 9 a.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays for even-numbered addresses, and the same hours on Wednesdays for odd-numbered addresses and properties with no civic address.
“Many people in Whistler are very water wise, and this year more than ever, we will all need to conserve water both indoors, and outside,” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “The best way to avoid wasting water is to learn how to irrigate effectively. This may come as a surprise, but more plants are stressed or killed by over-watering than by living in dry conditions.”
Whistler dealt with drought conditions and an unseasonably warm summer in 2015, which led to an early snowmelt and Whistler’s lowest water flows in 12 years. This summer is expected to bring more of the same, and the RMOW is asking the community to work together to find “creative ways” to conserve water.
“Small changes to daily habits make a big difference, and by working together, we can achieve our water conservation goals,” Wilhelm-Morden added. Whistler2020, a community-planning document, set a water consumption target of 425 litres per capita per day. In 2015, community water consumption rose nine litres to 518 litres per capita per day.
AWARE director Claire Ruddy believes Whistler needs to think collectively when striving towards its overarching environmental goals.
“Certainly my personal interpretation has been that (Whistler has fallen behind on its environmental targets) since we’ve stopped doing a lot of the community action planning processes, like Whistler2020, where we had groups that were focused on a variety of issues: waste, water, energy, transportation,” she said. “That was a great way for businesses and individuals to be put in touch with what they could do on a very practical level. I think that that’s currently a little bit of a gap. It’s a gap that’s being recognized and I hope that as a community we’ll get back onto shared community action. This isn’t just an RMOW initiative, it needs to be embedded across the community.”
The municipality outlined a number of ways residents can reduce their water usage while still maintaining healthy lawns and gardens, including checking irrigation system for leaks and broken or clogged sprinkling heads, watering early in the day when lawns are typically still wet from dew, and shutting off sprinklers as weather conditions change until the grass shows signs of needing water.
Ruddy also pointed to Europe as a model for water conservation, where many countries have taken innovative approaches to restricting water use, and wondered if its time for Whistler to follow suit.
“There are creative solutions out there we could be looking at as individuals and as a community. From the person I was talking to last year who had rigged up a system so they can use their bathwater to water their plants, to designing actual true greywater systems into our houses,” she explained. “If you look to Europe, they have done a lot of these things. In Europe you pay for water coming into your property, and you pay for water leaving your property. There’s a double incentive for people to control the way the water loops through their property and really maximize its use.”
The RMOW is in the process of updating its Water Use Bylaw in consultation with various resort stakeholders. It’s expected for presentation to council by spring 2017.
For more information, visit www.whistler.ca/savewater.