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UPDATE: Chilliwack watering restrictions lead to questions about what is allowed

Strict municipal watering restrictions mean lawns are going brown across the city. - Paul J. Henderson
Strict municipal watering restrictions mean lawns are going brown across the city.
— image credit: Paul J. Henderson

On the heels of another weekend of record temperatures in Chilliwack, and as the province declared the highest drought level for B.C., city hall has increased restrictions on residential water usage.

As of Monday, the city moved to stage three watering restrictions reducing the number of lawn sprinkling times to three hours once a week.

On July 15, the Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations announced the drought rating for the south coast and Lower Fraser areas was at level four, the highest possible.

In Chilliwack, for residents at even-numbered addresses, lawn watering is now only allowed Wednesdays from 5 to 8 a.m., and for odd-numbered addresses, Thursdays from 5 to 8 a.m. Residents that do choose to water their lawns during this time are asked to avoid watering sidewalks or roads.

Watering flower and vegetable gardens, shrubs and trees is still permitted at any time with the use of a spring-loaded hose adaptor, watering can or soaker hose.

With the increased level of restrictions comes increased enforcement. Now in addition to reminders and warnings from city staff, those caught watering outside of restricted hours will receive a $100 fine after one warning.

“The city will be increasing patrols for education and enforcement purposes,” director of engineering David Blain told the Times. “This will include staff going out in the evenings and early in the mornings. The patrollers will be noting evidence of excessive water use for further follow up.”

Temperatures have cooled slightly this week, but this past weekend was another scorcher in the city as Saturday’s 34.7 C high broke the all-time maximum reading for July 18 of 33.6 C back in 1995, according to Roger Pannett, volunteer weather observer for Environment Canada. Saturday’s average temperature of 25.85 C was also a high breaking the 1911 record of 25.6 C.

On Sunday, a record-breaking high minimum of 18.2 C was recorded, as was a high mean temperature of 26.55 C. The high temperature on July 19 of 34.9 C fell just short of the all-time record 35 C on that day in 1956.

July 19 was the 11th hot day with temperatures in excess of 30 C. The 30-year average for July is three hot days over 30 C.

Just 8.4 mm of rain has fallen in July. The average is 46 mm.

For more information on watering restrictions visit chilliwack.com/WaterRestrictions. Violations can be reported to the engineering department at 604-793-2907.

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What is actually permitted?

With news of the stage three water restrictions came questions from residents about what they can or can’t do, and why city crews continue to water.

Here are a few typical questions and answers from the city:

Can I wash my car?

Yes, vehicle washing is permitted but must be done using a bucket or hose equipped with a spring-loaded shut off, and all washing should take place over grass or gravel surface. If we get to stage four restrictions, this will be prohibited.

Can I water my vegetable garden?

Yes, again using a hand-held hose or watering can.

Can my kids run through the sprinkler?

The use of sprinklers for recreational use is permitted provided water is not wasted. Sprinklers should be turned off immediately after use. At stage four restrictions, this will be prohibited.

Will spray parks remain open?

Yes. Many residents with children that have no air conditioning at home rely on spray parks during the hot weather as a place to cool off.

Why is the city watering municipal playing fields and landscaped beds in boulevards?

Most playing fields are constructed on a sand base for good drainage, but this means the turf will die if not watered regularly. The cost of replacement for total loss would be “unacceptably high.” As for city landscaping beds and grass medians, they are exempt from water restrictions because they are designed to provide efficient drainage so require frequent watering. Sprinkler timing and positioning is being corrected to eliminate the waste of water. Furthermore, these areas are fire sensitive due to public smoking and need to be kept moist to avoid fire hazards.

What if I’m on a well?

The municipality’s restrictions don’t apply, but city hall encourages private well owners to respect the provincial government’s request to maximize conservation. Any formal restrictions would be issued by the province.

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