Blistering dry weather pushed Tofino into Stage 2 Water Restrictions on Sunday.
Outdoor watering of lawns, gardens and landscaped is prohibited except for the watering of food plants by a hand-held hose or canister with odd numbered civic addresses allowed to water on Mondays and Thursdays between 6-9 a.m. and 7-10 p.m and even numbered civic addresses allowed to water on Tuesdays and Fridays between 6-9 a.m. and 7-10 p.m.
“All other outdoor use of water is prohibited except to the minimum extent to remove salt water and provide basic hygienic cleaning,” read a statement from the district office on Sunday.
Prior to the restrictions being announced, Tofino’s director of infrastructure and public works Fraser Work told the Westerly News that the district office is pouring through data as part of a deep dive into the town’s water capacity needs.
“When water starts to become an issue as far as its availability, no one can ignore it,” he said. “It’s immense in its importance. So, what we want to do is ratchet up the dialogue and the discussion to a point where it’s top of mind so that we never find ourselves where we’re only thinking about it once we’re in a real dire strait.”
While the community is located within a temperate rainforest, its driest months come at the same time as the highest demand on its water supply and tourism is not the only drain on the system.
“One thing we learned from last year is that even with COVID and a partial lockdown throughout the year, our annual water use was still quite comparable to the year before,” Work said. “What that means is there’s potentially more users using the system, whether that means people visiting for the day, or new (residents) or some new resort loading and some new development around town.”
The district’s water supply comes from four creeks on Meares Island and is heavily dependent on rainfall.
“It’s ironic that we have a water scarcity issue in a place like Tofino and on the West Coast that gets so much water in the other seasons,” Work said, adding the town is well aware of the fragility of its water system. “I don’t think it’s hard to get attention on water on any day. I think everybody is really alive to the water issues in Tofino, which is really with respect to water scarcity during the summer dry periods which is coincidentally the peak tourist period. Everybody has that on their radar and their spidey senses are all tuned in, so I don’t have to try to get anyone’s attention when I talk about water. It’s all 100 per cent laser focused.”
He acknowledged that much of the district’s focus in terms of capital investment has been swallowed up by the pursuit of a wastewater treatment facility, but he expects all eyes to switch over to the water system once that facility is underway.
“As we get on the step with the wastewater treatment plant, I think that the community and council all really want to start having a much more roll-up-our-sleeves discussion on what the next 30 years of the water system looks like in Tofino and how we invest in that in a smart way,” he said. “My hope is in 2021 we have clarity on the wastewater treatment project, we’re moving forward and we start this much more intimate and meaningful discussion on the future of Tofino’s water.”
He said district staff have received approval from council to begin putting a water master plan together to sort out where investments are needed.
“Some parts of the system need to be replaced almost immediately, other parts of the system might be three years away and other parts of the system might be 12 or 20 years away.,” he said. “The intent of this exercise that we’re doing right now is to actually plot that out very definitively for the next 30 years, which is the thing that’s kind of been missing. What is our 30 year plan and what are we going to replace when and how?”
Work said residents and visitors can make an impact by improving their daily water conservation practices.
“The ‘If it’s yellow let it mellow’ thing is actually one of my favourites because from a household water use perspective, obviously toilet flushing can add up with a family,” he said. “Eliminating any water wastage, whether that’s leaks or things left on is huge and then prudent water conservation measures at home and our businesses and while we’re recreating is really important.”
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