City residents have failed to voluntarily curb their water consumption by 30 per cent this summer, but mandatory restrictions appear unlikely at this point.
As of Monday, domestic users in Penticton had trimmed their consumption by 17 per cent compared to a 15-day benchmark period in early July. That’s up from 11 per cent on Aug. 3.
“So we’re moving in the right direction, which is what we wanted to do,” said Mitch Moroziuk, the city’s operations director.
West Bench residents, who buy their water from the city’s utility, managed a 26 per cent reduction as of Monday, while agricultural users on Penticton’s north irrigation system achieved a nine per cent cut and those on the south reached 17 per cent.
The city has tried to meet its goal through outreach, such as placing signs in public spaces to remind people to cut their usage and assigning a worker from the water treatment plant to look for people watering outside permitted hours and days, Moroziuk said.
Tina Siebert, the city’s bylaw supervisor, said staff has issued “a few” tickets to water wasters, although she wasn’t able to specify the exact number. The penalty is $25 for a first offence, $50 for a second offence and $500 each time after that.
While some other local governments in B.C., such as the Sunshine Coast Regional District, have banned the use of outdoor taps in a bid to save water, Moroziuk said it’s doubtful Penticton will follow suit.
“Historically, looking at our system and how our system runs, we’re getting close to the end of what we would (consider) our difficult period to deal with. Another couple of weeks and we’ll be through that,” he explained.
Plus, the B.C. government hasn’t indicated it will impose tighter restrictions on the city’s water licences, although it has the power to do so after declaring a level four drought in the region.
Moroziuk said that besides making sure there’s enough water available for users now, he’s also keeping an eye on long-term forecasts to see if the winter will produce enough snow to refill reservoirs next year. The outlook isn’t good.
Environment Canada meteorologist Lisa Coldwells said forecasters are predicting a “very strong” El Nino this winter, which usually means warmer temperatures and less precipitation than normal in Southern B.C.
Moroziuk encouraged people who haven’t already done so to dial back their irrigation systems to operate for 30 per cent less time and make other easy adjustments, like covering pools to reduce evaporation and using brooms, rather than water, to clean driveways and other hard surfaces.
Update 17 Aug 2015: Here is the slide from the City of Penticton shown at the Okanagan Basin Drought Workshop.