Special to the Tribune
Spring is slowly arriving. We are still in a La Nina weather pattern which apparently will last most of the summer- in B.C. this is predicted to bring wetter and cooler weather this summer. Many of us will gladly trade fewer potential beach days in return for a lower risk of forest fires and summer smoke.
Recently I wrote an article about the significant reduction in residential water consumption over the last fifteen years in Williams Lake and how this has stabilised the city’s water source, an aquifer under the whole valley. Each summer, water use goes up considerably as we maintain our lawns and gardens. Last year, about 39 per cent of the whole year’s consumption was between the beginning of May and the end of August, which is a big improvement to pre–Water Wise, when the summer used about 45 per cent of the year’s water.
To encourage responsible summer water use, the ‘Bike Brigade’ will be hitting the streets again this summer to spread the Water Wise educational message. This is a group made up of conservation society staff, Potato House summer staff and occasional guests, such as Girl Guides.
They will observe any outdoor water use and notify residents about city sprinkling bylaws and best practices. This will be done via information door hangers, which will include contact information for any follow-up questions, and specific tips on how to reduce outdoor water use. If you see them biking around and have questions, they would be very happy to stop for a chat!
The group is not involved with any form of enforcement; the goal is purely to help residents stick to watering guidelines to protect the long-term viability of the city’s aquifer. Last year, some common findings of the Bike Brigade included sprinkling during restricted hours (10 a.m. – 6 p.m.), leaky sprinkler heads, sprinklers positioned that allowed water to be wasted on roads and sidewalks, and less efficient means of watering such as overhead sprinklers or sprinklers not set on timers.
A reminder; to keep grass green in our area only needs approximately 30 minutes (one inch) of watering twice a week. Try putting a tuna can on the grass and water until it is full. Another option is to let your lawn go dormant and not water at all; it will revive when the rain comes. For another perspective, in some areas of Europe, a green lawn in a dry summer is actually seen as very wasteful and not socially acceptable.
If you don’t like the idea of a ‘golden’ lawn, but would like to cut back on your water use, consider replacing areas of lawn with xeriscape plants. These are low water use plants and shrubs that can be lush and beautiful but thrive with far less maintenance and water. Our local garden centres can point you towards some plants that do well in this area and several neighbourhoods have some great xeriscape garden examples for ideas and inspiration.
I just want to take this opportunity to thank residents again for all the Water Wise contributions out there – it is very rewarding to see the cumulative impact of individual efforts leading to the truly impressive water savings in this community over the last fifteen years.
Jenny Howell is the water wise instructor and the executive director of the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society