Watering restrictions in Sicamous went into effect on May 15 and continue until Sept. 15. (File photo)

Watering restrictions in Sicamous went into effect on May 15 and continue until Sept. 15. (File photo)

Options for ramping up watering restrictions proposed for Sicamous

Bylaw amendment sparked by extreme heat and wildfires fires of the summer of 2021

Extreme heat and heavy water use last summer made for some concerning moments at Sicamous’ water treatment plant.

District of Sicamous council has approved proposed amendments to the district’s Water Regulations, Rental & Connection Charge Bylaw. The changes had to do with watering restrictions, introducing multiple stages that can be used when deemed necessary to further rein in water use in the community.

At council’s July 13 meeting, operations manager Darrell Symbaluk explained the district’s current watering restrictions, which are in effect May 15 to Sept. 15, allow odd-numbered residences to water on odd-numbered days, and even- numbered residences on even-numbered days. They also limit periods of watering with sprinklers to between 7 and 11 a.m. and between 7 and 11 p.m. With the extreme heat and fires of last summer, though, there were times these restrictions weren’t enough to prevent water usage exceeding the rate at which it flows through the district’s water treatment facility.

“Last year scared us a little bit,” said Symbaluk. “On my to-do list was to create a mechanism going forward where if we have really tough conditions arise, through my office we can make a decision to ratchet up water restrictions as needed.”

The first of the four proposed stages of restrictions sticks to the even/odd day schedule for watering, but does not limit what hours watering may occur during the day.

Stage 2 allows automatic (sprinklers/irrigation systems) and manual watering (by hose) at even-numbered addresses on Mondays and Thursdays, and odd-numbered addresses on Tuesdays and Fridays. Again, there is no restriction regarding time of day.

Stage 3 prohibits automated watering (sprinkler/irrigation systems) but allows manual watering at even-numbered addresses, Mondays and Thursdays, and odd numbered-addresses Tuesdays and Fridays.

Stage 4 prohibits all water use outdoors except for health and safety reasons.

“Last year we had a pretty exceptional summer with the heat… and the fire conditions,” said Symbaluk when introducing the bylaw amendments. “In all the time I’ve been here, I’ve never seen us struggle to make water. I know there are comments out in the community, we’ve got a big lake, we’ll never run out of water. It’s more about a lot of people hitting it at the same time.”

Read more: Two new spot-sized wildfires discovered in North Okanagan-Shuswap

Read more: Increased water demand in Salmon Arm prompts city to encourage conservation

Symbaluk acknowledged sprinklers were used last summer to protect residences. However, he noted instances where “we had people away from the danger zone and had people using sprinklers on their driveways.”

Coun. Jeff Mallmes said on the surface what was being proposed looked good; however, he had an issue with allowing watering at all hours of the day, even when just manual watering is allowed.

“You’ve got to realize most of your population is senior citizens; they’ve got nothing else to do with their days,” said Mallmes, suggesting that in some cases manual watering will result in more use than automated sprinklers. “If you impose that when it’s hot out, you either water from five in the morning until seven in the morning or seven at night to nine o’clock at night rather than all day because all day is going to consume a lot of water as well. You have to restrict the amount of time.”

“Point taken,” replied Symbaluk, adding, “I don’t foresee us being in a position where we’re going to need to knock the water use back to nothing.”

Communities in Bloom chair Deb Heap commented the proposed changes are “really about getting the message out and having that communication tool so people know that yeah, things have changed.”

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