Sunshine Coast residents are fed up with water restrictions and SCRD directors know it. We are especially hearing from food growers distraught at the prospect of seeing their crops wither again.
I wish I could say that we have a solution, but we don’t. We can’t possibly hook up new water supplies in time for this summer. Here’s the situation.
SUPPLY SHORTAGE – A recent inventory of our water supplies showed that the Chapman system has only 50% of the water supply we need to get through a dry summer without going past Stage 2. As of 2017, our regional water deficit is 1.5 million cubic metres of water. That’s approximately the storage in Chapman Lake AND Edwards Lake combined.
INCREASING SEVERE DROUGHTS – Summer rainfall has been decreasing much more dramatically than anyone expected. From 1960-1996, we received an average of 150 mm of rain between June and August. The last two years we had half that amount of rain.
HOT DRY SPRING 2019 – So far this spring we’ve had record-breaking high temperatures and much lower than average rainfall. Our snowpack is low, too. The April 1 snow survey results (reported on the April 18 Infrastructure agenda) show that the snowpack is down 34% from historic averages at Chapman Lake and down 45% at Edwards Lake.
DROUGHT FATIGUE – Finally, a significant number of people are not complying with water restrictions. Last year we were nowhere close to meeting water use targets.
A lot of people are angry at the SCRD because they figure the water shortage is mostly a result of bad planning (true) so they are deliberately flouting restrictions. This puts us in an extremely dangerous situation. If we run out of water, otherwise known as “stage 5”, we will be in a huge emergency for which the coast is entirely unprepared. It scares the pants off me. It’s far worse than just having no drinking water. If our taps run dry, we have no fire protection, no hospital services and no public sanitation.
SCRD directors are reviewing our drought management plan—revising the water restriction stages to maximize water conservation, while still prioritizing agriculture as much as possible. But tweaking the rules will not solve our problem unless everyone pitches in to reduce summer water consumption. We can avoid going to Stage 4 this year if everyone helps, including businesses, schools, the tourism industry, gardeners, farmers, and other governments.
This is a Water Emergency. Until we are able to bring new water sources online, we must conserve.