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Water for firefighting back to normal

Municipality puts level two irrigation restrictions in place

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For five days last week some of Whistler’s reservoirs were running close to empty, posing serious concerns about the town’s firefighting capabilities.

Specifically, the reservoir servicing the Blackcomb Benchlands was only 10 per cent full.

"It was a serious concern," said Brian Barnett, the municipality’s general manager of engineering and public works.

Had there been a fire in the Benchlands, Barnett said the municipality would have diverted water from another neighbourhood to make up for the shortfall.

The fire department was also concerned about water.

"Any time we get low water levels it does concern us," said Assistant Chief Rob Whitton.

The low reservoir levels prompted Barnett to put level two irrigation restrictions in place, restricting residents to watering their lawns once a week. Those restrictions were in place over the weekend and lifted on Tuesday. Normally throughout the summer level one restrictions are in effect, which allow residents to water their lawns twice a week.

Barnett attributes the low water levels to three things. First of all, the water coming from surface supplies, such as 21 Mile Creek, was lower than normal.

"We believe that might be related to the low snowpack so we had less supply coming in from the surface water," he said.

Secondly, the groundwater supply, namely from the four wells in the day skier parking lots, was also lower than normal because of low aquifer levels. That may also be attributed to the low snowpack, said Barnett.

Finally the situation was exacerbated by a well in Function Junction servicing Bayshores, Spring Creek and Millars Pond, which was under construction and only operating at half capacity.

"So those things related to reduced water flows. Plus because of the very hot weather we had higher consumption with irrigation than you normally do," said Barnett.

"That all led to low reservoir levels, which was a concern to us because of fire fighting protection."

To make up for the shortfall, in addition to the irrigation restrictions the municipality also connected the ground water and surface water systems to maximize some reservoir pumps.

"That’s nicely filling the reservoirs," said Barnett.

The work on the Function well is also now complete and it is running at full capacity. The Benchlands reservoir is also now at capacity.

Barnett said he is not expecting to go to a level two irrigation restriction again this summer.

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