Summer water restrictions put into effect
If we get to the point where we do see diminishing reservoir levels, rising demand, increasing dry summers, I think metering is inevitable. — William Rees, University of B.C.
A University of B.C. ecological economist says water metering is the only true way of restricting the usage of H2O during summer droughts as the winter snowpack gradually declines.
UBC professor William Rees said on Sunday the impacts of global warming mean that each year less snowfall remains on local mountains as temperatures warm up.
That translates to less water filtering downstream and into the local reservoirs local residents depend on.
Sunday marks the first day of summer water conservation measures across the Metro Vancouver region.
According to the City of Vancouver, citing regional numbers, this year’s snowpack is about 66% of the historical average. The city warns that conserving drinking water is even more important this year.
Violating conservation rules — which define when homes can water lawns — could result in a $100 fine.
Rees said snowpack percentages rise and fall over time, but the low number is a sign of bad things to come.
“Right now, most of us don’t have any idea what it costs to use the water,” he said.
“We have no real water restrictions ... if we really wanted to get serious about this, we’d have water metering on every house just like we do with electricity, and you would find demand would drop dramatically.”
Rees said that in the past decade local reservoir levels have dipped as low as 30%.
According to Metro Vancouver’s numbers, in November last year local reservoirs had at least 30 million fewer cubic metres of water than it did in the previous two years, though the regional authority points out the drop is still within “normal range.”
“If you have a lower winter precipitation and less snowpack and higher water demand ... obviously the possibility of shortages will increase,” Rees said, adding that the impact might also be felt by the agricultural sector — which uses the melting snowpack as a water resource — and by fish, such as salmon, that use streams to reach spawning grounds.