Metro-Vancouver Proposes Changes to Water Shortage Response Plan

Proposed changes to the Metro-Vancouver Water Shortage Response Plan (WSRP) were announced to stakeholders via email on December 13.  The WSRP outlines restrictions for lawn watering, landscape irrigation, and other water uses including golf courses and sportsfields, throughout the region's 21 municipal districts.

Updates to the plan can be found at the following link (see pages 29-34 of this massive document):

For watering of school yards, sports and sand‐based playing fields, the proposed amendment restricts watering to 7:00 pm – 9:00 am in Stages 1, 2 and 3, unless operating under an approved local government water management plan.  Currently, sports fields can be watered at any time of the day under Stages 1, 2 and 3.  

The amendment would allow golf courses operating under a ‘Local Government Approved Water Management Plan’, an exemption from the Regional WSRP Watering Restrictions in Stages 2 and 3.  Currently a few local governments are allowing golf courses to operate under a performance based water management plan.  Water management plans are generally binding agreements with the local government that establish a baseline water demand for the specific golf course under Stage 1, with targeted reductions in demand to be achieved in Stages 2 and 3.     

The document provided explanatory notes for both sectors as follows:

Sports fields are a public amenity that need to be maintained to remain playable through the summer and in the fall, when the fields are more heavily used again, and to prevent the loss of a public asset.  This proposed change reduces inefficient watering practices by preventing midday watering when a portion of the water is lost to evaporation. Preventing watering during the warmer periods of the day is also consistent with lawn watering restrictions and promotes public sector leadership since most of those fields are owned and operated by local governments.  The proposed restriction still allows plenty of opportunity to water fields that  require more watering such as sand‐based and artificial turf fields, while not wasting water.  It is also proposed that, in Stages 2 and 3, where jurisdictions allow water management plans, operators be allowed to develop a performance‐based water management plan specific to their site, rather than meeting the general restrictions on water use in the regional WSRP.   Water management plans allow operators a flexible and effective mechanism to manage their irrigation demands without negatively impacting the playing condition of the sports field.  Water management plans also allow local governments to monitor and benchmark water use performance and to work with sports field operators on improving their skills, knowledge and techniques for efficient irrigation.

Feedback from the golf course sector indicated that uniform irrigation is essential to maintain turf quality. Research also showed that golf course operators manage irrigation intensively to maintain turf quality and to reduce water use and costs. Water management plans provide golf course operators with a flexible and effective mechanism to manage their irrigation demands without negatively impacting business. They also allow local governments to monitor and benchmark water use performance and to work with golf course operators on improving their skills, knowledge, and techniques for efficient turf irrigation.

In January 2017, Metro Vancouver is hosting workshops for businesses and organizations, specifically those that rely on using municipal drinking water for their core business. Staff will present the proposed changes and listen to feedback.

Representatives from the following business sectors and organizations are invited:
• Car washing
• Golf courses
• Turfgrass
• Irrigation
• Landscape and nursery
• Public and private school districts
• Pressure washing and window cleaning
• Pool and hot tub
• Chambers of Commerce

Information about the WSRP review and update process is available on Metro Vancouver's website

Editor’s note:  The WCTA remains intimately involved with the WSRP amendment process, on its own and working with allied groups.  At least one WCTA representative will be attending the January workshop and we will continue reporting on developments.  As stated previously, Metro-Vancouver’s changes can have a wide reaching affect as other municipalities often adopt policies created in larger centres.