Stressed trees in Parksville Community Park are seen with gator bags that allow water to slowly seep from the bag.

Drought forcing city into drastic measures in Parksville

City, residents have to make tough decisions about water use

The City of Parksville says it is doing its part to conserve water in these drought conditions.

Council passed a bylaw Monday night authorizing its officer to levy a fine of $100 to those who use water contrary to conservation levels. The city is at level 4, which basically means no outdoor watering whatsoever. (See below for details about level 4 and the new fines schedule.)

During the discussion about the bylaw, Coun. Sue Powell called for a $500 fine, saying the $100 levy was a “joke.”

Coun. Teresa Patterson voiced concern about what the city is doing to watch its water use.

“We are not always compliant,” said Patterson. “We have sprinklers on the roads. We are wasting water.”

The city released some information Tuesday about what it has been doing to reduce its water usage.

“We have now shutdown all possible irrigation without causing permanent damage to our assets,” said a news release from the city. “We are prepared to lose perennials and shrubs but not major trees.”

Other actions by the city include (read the entire news release at www.pqbnews.com):

– purchased 180 gator or tree bags which are being filled with non-potable water by the city’s water truck. The bags allow the water to slowly seep from the bag applying water to the root zone of the newer tree.

– boulevard grass areas for the most part have been turned off with the exception where irrigation is in common with trees and ornamental shrubs.

Irrigation zones on the highway were installed in the 1980’s and extend for long distances.  An area of grass can be connected to trees and shrubs in front of adjacent businesses in the same watering zone.  Most of these zones have now been shut off and we will monitor the trees and shrubs and try to prevent too much tree stress or death.

– The waterpark hours have been reduced to 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in order to save water.

– The sports fields will continue to be watered. In 2013, through a federal government grant, the fields were resurfaced at a cost of about $350,000. Because the fields are sand based and have a shallow root zone, the grass would die very quickly and would not recover. The kite field is not being watered and will be in need of substantial repair in the spring

– Non-potable water is being used from an irrigation well in the industrial park area to water trees and planters.  Next up is to reuse the flushing of the river station in such areas as the Pym Street Canada Flag display.

“We are now saving 150,000 gallons (550 cubic metres) of water per day with the measures we have taken so far,” said the release. “We are doing our best to manage a system that has never seen measures such as these.”

Said Mayor Marc Lefebvre: “We are fortunate to have well-trained, dedicated staff who have embraced this operational situation and come up with innovative solutions which are sustainable approaches to managing our parks infrastructure.”

Back to Monday night, when Powell expressed her frustration about the amount of the fines.

“When do we say enough?” asked Powell. “This is really serious. We need to get serious.”

Powell said some residents seem to know the days the city has a bylaw officer on duty and when they can water without fear of a fine.

“Some people in this community think this is a game, ‘let’s not get caught’,” she said. “People understand they can do that (water) on the weekends. Enforcing our bylaws is a joke in this community.”

The city, in conjunction with neighbouring communities, also announced Monday it is having a Water Saver Contest.

“Here’s a chance to recognize those in our region who go above and beyond to save water,” said a news release from the city, which said efforts could include water re-use, rainwater collection, landscaping with drought-tolerant/native plants and mulching garden soil. “All these actions go a long way to protecting our water supply during this drought.”

To enter the contest submit 100 words or less (e-mail watersmart@rdn.bc.ca and get application forms at www.teamwatersmart.ca) on how your neighbour is being Water Smart and if possible, include a photo.

Both the person doing the nominating and the nominee will be entered into a prize draw. The champion will receive a yard sign to display to recognize their water saving efforts. There will be prize draws every Friday and the weekly winner will receive a “rubber ducky trophy” and a family recreation pass for RDN facilities.

This contest is open to all residents in the region, including Parksville, Lantzville, Qualicum Beach, all RDN water service areas and rural properties on private wells.

Also Monday night, Fire Chief Doug Banks asked for, and received, permission from council to fund a stand-by crew at the fire hall during these extreme fire hazard days, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We have some younger guys who are keen to do this,” said Banks. “And the sooner we can get a jump on a fire, the better.”

The Parksville Volunteer Fire Department has three “career” staff and 40 volunteers.

“This (allowing for the stand-by crew) is an example of due diligence,” said Coun. Kirk Oates. “There are going to be fires, it’s inevitable.”

• The bylaw passed Monday night (council asked for a staff report with an eye to possibly increasing these fines in August) outlines the penalties for contravention of water conservation regulations. Fines will be as follows: Connection to water system without written permission, $150: Use of water contrary to conservation levels, $100; Allow waste of water, $100; Failure to use water in accordance with the provisions of the bylaw, $100; Obstructing a City employee or officer, $400.

• The level 4 comprehensive watering ban, imposed by the city July 9 and not expected to be lifted for the duration of the summer, includes:

– All outdoor sprinkling is prohibited including newly seeded and sodded lawns.

– Between the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., watering of vegetable gardens, shrubs, trees and flowers is restricted to a hand-held container or a hose equipped with a shut-off nozzle or a drip-irrigation system. (This does not include soaker, weeper hoses or micro-sprayers — drip irrigation only.)

– No washing of vehicles, RVs and boats.

– No washing of driveways, sidewalks, parking lots and exterior building surfaces.

– No filling of swimming pools, wading pools, hot tubs and garden pond water features.

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