Nelson fire chief Len MacCharles and public works director Colin Innes at the city’s reservoir last week. As MacCharles explains

Nelson imposes water restrictions

Residents ignoring Level 3 lawn-watering restrictions could be fined.

Even with this week’s forecast calling for milder temperatures and some rain, the City of Nelson is stressing that  residents need to follow watering restrictions issued last week or face fines.

The restrictions require residents to significantly reduce lawn, flower bed and garden watering and stop all outdoor water use such as car washing and driveway rinses.

“These restrictions are officially in place now, and everyone in the city needs to abide by them,” says Mayor Deb Kozak. “I’m confident that we can pull together and significantly reduce our water usage.”

Here are the restrictions:

• Lawn sprinkler or irrigation watering is only permitted between 4 and 9 a.m. or 7 to 10 p.m. once per week, on Wednesdays (for even-numbered addresses) or Thursdays (for odd-numbered addresses).

• Garden watering is only permitted with a hand-held wand or drip irrigation system and only between 4 and 9 a.m. or 7 to 10 p.m.

• Do not use water to wash sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, exterior windows or exterior building surfaces or vehicles.

“There are four levels of conservation when it comes to the state of the city’s water system,” says public works director Colin Innes. “And those levels are based on two things: how much water we currently have to provide fresh drinking water and for fire protection, and our projected run off and precipitation levels.”

“And right now, based on our current water usage and supply, we have had to move to Level 3 — which means nothing more than once-a-week lawn and garden watering.”

Fire chief Len MacCharles, who visited the city’s reservoir along with Innes on Friday afternoon, says Level 3 status is concerning but manageable — but only if the public complies with the watering restrictions issued last week.”

“If local residents do not comply with the new water restrictions,” MacCharles says, “we’ll have no other choice but to begin enforcing the restrictions with bylaw patrols and fines. Ffor every litre of water we pour onto our lawns or driveways, that’s one less litre we have for drinking and fire protection.”

Previous restrictions did not reduce water use enough. Consistently hotter-than-normal weather has increased demand on the city’s resevoir. Residents have used 35 percent more water so far than last year at this time. In fact, the summer of 2015 is recording the highest level of water use in recent years.

The city figures if current use doesn’t slow, the fire department’s ability to fight fires could be compromised.

Household irrigation — which includes watering lawns, gardens and other outdoor usages — accounts for 39 percent of Nelson’s water consumption. Residents’ attention to the restrictions would result in a significant savings of water — providing the surplus required to provide fire protection for the city.

Fire protection is a high priority this summer given tinder dry conditions that have resulted in fires throughout the province including the nearby Duhamel/Sitkum wildfire.

“We all have to be very aware of the dry conditions,” says MacCharles. Last week a small camp fire was found smouldering and unattended along the rail grade pathway above Uphill. “It was shocking,” adds MacCharles, “and needless to say, very dangerous.”

Watching your water

With urban interface fire prevention in mind, Nelson Fire and Rescue is asking you to:

• Cut your lawns short, and water once a week;

• Ensure all debris from the recent wind storm is cleaned up;

• Cut back tall grasses and brush, especially along homes, and unkempt parts of your property;

• Water gardens and flower beds by hand.

The city is doing its part to save water too:

• Lakeside Park and the soccer fields are watered from the West Arm of Kootenay Lake, not the reservoir;

• Street cleaners use water from the West Arm too;

• The cemetery uses well water;

• The spray park has been closed to conserve water;

• Downtown planters on streets like Vernon are self-watering.

If you need more help, contact the city’s water ambassador, through the public works department at 250-352-8102 or watersmart@nelson.ca.The ambassador is available for home visits and has a lot of great advice on how to restrict your water use without losing important gardens and greenery.