News / Vancouver

Heat wave approaches Vancouver, city struggles with water conservation

Record-breaking heat is in the forecast for the Lower Mainland this weekend, adding to conditions that could lead to a drought in a city where residents aren’t being very careful with their water consumption.

Temperatures are expected to gradually climb and peak on Sunday with temperatures of 29 C on the coast, which would not only break daily records but could lead to the warmest June since the late 1800s, Environment Canada meteorologist Matt MacDonald said Tuesday. It could be as hot as 33 C inland and up to 40 C in Kamloops and Lytton.

On top that, Vancouver had its driest May on record with just 4.2 millimetres of rain compared to an average of 65 and an abnormally warm winter that didn’t add to the snow pack, MacDonald said.

“It’s kind of the perfect ingredients for a drought,” he said. “It feels like we’re in August already looking at the vegetation, the grass is brown, plants are dry.”

Meantime, the City of Vancouver is looking at ways to reduce its water usage as part of its greenest city goals.

In an update to council on Tuesday, the city’s director of sustainability Amanda Pitre-Hayes revealed the water consumption per capita rose slightly last year.

The city is trying to reduce its water consumption per capita by 33 per cent from 2006 levels. It made significant headway in 2013 when usage dropped by 18 per cent, but there was an uptick last year with usage only down 16 per cent from the benchmark.

Pitre-Hayes said this year’s drought is somewhat of a silver lining because it gives the city a unique opportunity to promote awareness of water issues to residents.

“Usually it’s quite difficult,” she said.

The city is looking to crack down on lawn watering and outdoor water use, the main culprits that drain water from the reserves. There’s a $250 fine for sprinkling outside of the permitted hours of 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. (Even-numbered addresses can water on Mondays, Wednesday and Saturdays and odd-numbered addresses get Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.)

City staff will actively patrol for violations and are encouraging residents to tattle on misbehaving neighbours using the VanConnect app or 3-1-1.

Residents are encouraged to only water their lawns for one hour a week or simply let their grass turn brown.

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