Salmon Arm  

Droughts and wildfire allowed City of Salmon Arm to test new water restrictions

Water use rules tightened

City of Salmon Arm staff say last year’s droughts and wildfires gave them the opportunity to test and gather feedback on new water restrictions.

Salmon Arm city council heard a report from staff about the effectiveness of the new four-stage water restrictions and informed them of changes that will be made in 2024.

Jennifer Wilson, city engineer, spoke to council about how the water restrictions went in 2023.

“We had the distinct opportunity last year due to severe drought and wildfire conditions to implement all four stages,” she said. “And although it was not desirable to have this happen, it was a good opportunity to fully test the system.”

Education over enforcement

The report attached to the agenda illustrated water usage during all four stages of restrictions.

Stage 2 didn’t change much from Stage 1, according to Wilson.

“But when we entered Stage 3 and 4, you can see that the community really got on board and tightened up and the water usage went down quite a bit,” Wilson said.

“During Stage 4, the bylaw officers were proactively checking for infractions on a daily basis, no fines were issued, we just educated the public during that time.”

Commercial properties were also a concern during Stage 4 restrictions.

“One of the main challenges that we ran into was commercial properties not adjusting their automated irrigation systems, and often these organizations were headquartered outside of Salmon Arm,” Wilson said. “So getting a hold of anybody to talk to them and educate them about the new system was difficult.

“We anticipate the same thing going into this year, but as time rolls on we're expecting that to get better and better.”

Wilson explained to the council the majority of the public feedback on the project was concerned with food security.

“And the concern was expressed that the watering restrictions were too restrictive to keep food producing plants, trees and shrubs alive and thriving,” she said.

“So we've adjusted the watering restrictions to allow this seven days a week, but encouraging people to use that as necessary and not overuse.”

Using grey water

Coun. Sylvia Lindgren said she’d heard from families that were using grey water to keep their gardens healthy during restrictions.

“I'm really happy that council supports all of these initiatives,” Lindgren said. “I think it's really important to the community.”

“During the Stage 4 restrictions last year, in order to keep gardens alive I know of at least two families that captured their grey water rather than letting it go down the sink, they washed dishes in basins and carried that water out to their gardens and used it to water the gardens”

She also said that it’s time for council to look at ways to encourage more grey water usage.

“We likely have bylaws that restrict us from using our grey water from our homes in our yards to water lawns and to water gardens,” Lindgren said. “We know that our sewage treatment plant is reaching capacity and diverting water from that system would only be a good thing.

“I think that at some point we're going to have to start making some considerations for allowing people to divert their grey water to do outside irrigation and only have their black water going into this sewage treatment plant.”

For information on current water restrictions, residents can visit the City of Salmon Arm website.

More Salmon Arm News