Metro Vancouver declared stage 3 water restrictions Monday, banning all home lawn sprinkling for the first time in more than a decade.
The decision Monday came after the drinking water supply in Metro’s reservoirs declined again to 69 per cent of capacity – a level never seen this early in the summer.
The water supply has dropped 10 per cent since late June and regional district officials say it is critical to conserve more to get through this record dry summer without even more drastic measures.
“Unless we change the amount we’re consuming, that’s a trajectory we just can’t go down,” Metro board chair Greg Moore said.
Metro’s previous move to stage 2 restrictions had cut allowed lawn sprinkling from three times a week to just one day.
Stage 2 cut daily water consumption from more than 1.6 billion litres per day to about 1.35 billion.
But Moore said the region needs to cut it further, to less than 1.2 billion litres a day.
That’s more than the 900 million to 1 billion litres used on average in the winter but Moore admits it’s a challenging target in hot, dry summer months.
Stage 3 also bans all refilling of hot tubs, pools and garden ponds, among other tighter restrictions on outdoor water use.
Local cities have already issued thousands of warnings to water sprinkling violators and ticketed repeat offenders.
Officials hope the blanket ban on sprinkling will make it easier to root out offenders and put them under pressure from neighbours.
“If we have no rain going forward it’s going to be pretty easy to figure out pretty darn quickly who is watering their lawn and who isn’t,” Moore said.
Social media vigilantes have taken to drought shaming violators online, often using the tag #grasshole.
Moore said he hopes people are “neighbourly” and pull together to conserve.
“We’re all in this together as citizens of this region,” Moore said. “I hope people just step up themselves and realize it’s important to all of us to conserve our water in an extraordinarily dry time.”
Metro assumes a worst-case water supply scenario, with no significant rain fall through August, September and into October.
The sprinkling ban covers not just residential and commercial lawns but all parks, cemeteries and boulevards.
There are no longer exemptions for watering of newly seeded lawns or on ones treated with nematodes to fight chafer beetle infestations.
Sports fields and school yards can still be watered at minimal levels to keep them playable.
Golf courses can still water greens and tee areas, but the move to stage 3 means fairways can no longer be watered and will be allowed to go brown.
Residents can still water shrubs, trees, vegetables and flower gardens using hand held hoses, but only if they have a spring-loaded shutoff nozzle. Watering cans and drip irrigation systems are still allowed, but there’s no watering of gardens or planters using sprinklers or soaker hoses.
Hosing off vehicles and surfaces and all forms of pressure washing are also banned, except for health and safety purposes, as well as commercial pressure washing to prepare a surface for painting or sealing.
That means all outdoor car and boat washing is now banned except for cleaning windows, lights and licence plates for safety.
Stage 3 restrictions are expected to remain in place until Sept. 30. It can take up to 72 hours before individual municipalities begin enforcement.
Metro officials still have one more weapon left in their water conservation arsenal, if necessary.
Stage 4 restrictions in the regional district’s Water Shortage Response Plan would prohibit all forms of watering with treated drinking water, shut down indoor carwashes, and eliminate some other exemptions.
Metro has only once before gone to region-wide stage 3 restrictions – during severe drought conditions in 2003.