May restrict usage all year 0
In the response to this summer’s drought, the City of Pembroke will begin restricting how much residents can water their lawns and gardens.
Council passed a draft bylaw that will see enforceable water restrictions imposed each year between May 15 and Sept. 15. Watering hours will be limited to between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
The measures follow a period where the city’s water plant experienced excessive consumption which created peak demands on the treatment system.
When the Ministry of Natural Resources declared a Level 2 drought across the region, the city asked homeowners to voluntarily limit their water usage. Residents were encouraged to water two hours in the morning or two hours in the evening. Operations manager Doug Sitland said that while many complied with the request, there are people who continue to ignore the restrictions.
From June 22 to July 8, the city’s water purification plant saw an increase in demand which required the production of an additional 84 million litres of water compared to this same period last year. During one 24-hour period around July 6, the plant produced over 16 million litres. The source of the city’s water supply, the Ottawa River, has seen its levels drop to 110.87 metres, below the historic lowest mean level for the river for July on record.
Since May, an extra 200,000 cubic metres of water has been produced as compared to historic averages costing the city $100,000. Mr. Sitland said enacting conservation measures will likely lead to some operational savings.
Councillor Dan Callaghan said Pembroke is behind when it comes to watering bylaws, which have been implemented in neighbouring municipalities like Petawawa. He said people need to realize excessive consumption comes with a high price tag.
“It’s $100,000 that’s extra and that’s a cost that has to come from somewhere,” said Coun. Callaghan.
Water bills have gone up 10 per cent, noted Councillor Bob Hackett, adding residents have a choice to use all the water they want but it’s going to cost them. He hinted the water crisis was a wake-up call that Pembroke and Renfrew County are not immune to drought.
“We should be prepared in case Mother Nature does this to us again,” he said. “If we want to keep our costs down then we should conserve.”
Councillors reviewed several options, however, some believed there should be a bylaw that would have specific restrictions when required. Councillor Pat Lafreniere pointed out it will be complicated to impose limits on another municipality, namely Laurentian Valley, which draws drinking water from the city’s plant.
Coun. Lafreniere added the measures may prove excessive depending on the weather.
“It could rain every day next year and there may not be a crisis,” she said.
Councillor Terry O’Neill was skeptical that such a bylaw could be enforced by city staff. In his report, Mr. Sitland acknowledged that enforcement of the bylaw and the associated educational campaign will require some staff time and resources.
“Why have the bylaw if we aren’t going to enforce it,” said Coun. O’Neill. “We’re panicking over one summer.”
The new bylaw provides exceptions for new sod, all new plantings and treatments such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer. Under the discretion of chief administrative officer Terry Lapierre, where river levels warrant, additional restrictions may be imposed together with increased fines. In the event of a council or provincially declared emergency, additional restrictions would be imposed.
Council approved the recommendation to proceed with the bylaw by a narrow split vote of 5-4.
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist