MacPherson to Tofino: Stage 1 water restrictions for another month

August’s weather forecast looks thrilling for beach goers but Tofino officials are a little less excited.

With little rain in sight, Tofitians are likely to remain under stage-one water restrictions for at least another month, according to district CAO Bob MacPherson.

Stage-one limits garden watering to two days a week, with watering days alternating between residents of even numbered addresses and those with odd numbered addresses.

Tofino’s manager of public works Bob Schantz activated stage-one restrictions on June 17 after a long period of below average rainfall.

“This was a way to introduce the notion of water conservation in what was shaping up to be a dry summer,” MacPherson said during Tofino’s regular council meeting last week.

He said May was about 56 per cent dryer than average and was followed by a June that received about half of its average rainfall while July’s rain reached closer to its norm with about 88 per cent of its average rainfall.

Despite activating the restrictions, Tofino actually consumed 10.5 per cent more water between June 14 and July 24 than that same period in 2013 when no restrictions were in place, he said.

“I think if in future years we are looking for something in stage-one that seriously reduces water consumption rather than just notifies people that there’s an issue, we maybe want to look at some measures that go beyond what was done this year,” he said.

The increased water consumption could be a product of a busier tourist season and noted Tofino consumed about 7 per cent more water in the first 30 weeks of 2014 than that same time period in 2013, he said.

“I think the 10.5 per cent (increase) is really a continuation of a trend of more water consumption that is an indication that we are busier,” MacPherson said.

While noting Tofino’s water supply has shown resilience and the district is “keeping pace with demand at this point,” MacPherson speculated stage-one restrictions would likely remain in effect into September.

He pointed to an August weather forecast that looks like a sun worshipper’s dream

with nothing but solid sunshine expected for the next two weeks.

“For some people this is really great news,” he said. “But in terms of (water) reservoir recovery it gives us pause and, I think, tells us that we ought to be staying in stage-one at this time just as a way of notifying the public that we’ve got dryer than usual weather.”

Mayor Josie Osborne was not surprised by Tofino’s increase in water consumption.

“That often is the reflex of the community when a conservation measure goes in…then it slowly comes back down again but it doesn’t come back down until it’s complemented with a pretty aggressive education program.”

Municipal councillor Cathy Thicke wants to see Tourism Tofino play a role in educating visitors about Tofino’s limited water supply.

“I think we could collaborate with some other partners on getting the message out,” she said.

“Something that promotes an awareness that there isn’t an unlimited supply like there is in Vancouver or another place…If we could somehow convey that message more clearly to people in a good way, I think people would love to be good stewards of this resource.”

Osborne agreed that Tourism Tofino has a role to play especially considering Tofino’s two most recent water disaster experiences.

“Tourism Tofino has a very vested interest in helping the district communicate this kind of information because of what happened in 2006 and 2009 and we know what the ripple effect of the message out to the bigger world was,” she said.

In August 2006, Tofino lost its last summer weekend when the district ordered businesses to shut down operations due to an extreme water shortage and a similar catastrophe hit in 2009.

Both instances brought unwanted national attention as media outlets reported on Tofino’s inability to welcome tourists or accommodate reservation-holding guests.

The CBC published a story on Aug. 30, 2006, on several bridesto-be who watched their Tofino destination-wedding dreams become nightmares as families flew in from across the country to find accommodations unable to take them in.

MacPherson assured this type of situation is not on Tofino’s current horizon and that the district is not expecting to see its stage-one restrictions graduate to stage-two.

Stage-two restrictions limit garden watering to food gardens only and only during specific times and also prohibit the washing of cars, boats, and wetsuits.

These restrictions kick in automatically if Tofino’s Close Creek reservoir stops filling.

“Close Creek is monitored daily (and) there’s no concern with the water supply coming from Close Creek at this time,” MacPherson said.