The City of Vancouver announced restrictions for watering lawns from June 1st to September 30th, 2015. While the restrictions are an annual occurrence, this is the first summer that the City’s new $250 fines for watering outside of designated hours are in place. Earlier this year, Council raised the fines from $100 to $250 (changes on March 24, 2015 and April 14, 2015). The previous $100 fine was introduced on July 14, 2011.
Water conservation is a laudable goal. The City’s policy allows for lawn sprinklers on residential properties between 4am and 9am (on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays for even-numbered addresses and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays for odd-numbered addresses). The restriction is on tap water; water collected in barrels and cisterns is exempt. The City’s website has further information on water allowances and policy. Curiously, the fines for breaking the policy are not on this main page. Rather, the fines are included as part of the ticket offences bylaw.
Is the new $250 fine the best way to enforce the City’s lawn watering restrictions? Are there other ways to escalate the bylaw enforcement (perhaps first with a friendly warning, then a stern warning, $20 fine, $50 fine and $100 fine for repeat offenders). Should there be more emphasis on encouraging homeowners and businesses to use alternate water sources?
Restrictions on water use are put in place in many other municipalities throughout Canada. The webpage for Waterloo, Ontario shows a number of measures have been taken to substantially reduce water usage. One initiative was to distribute nearly 50,000 rain barrels to the community; other actions included a program to incentivize low-flush toilets and the construction of cisterns on properties to collect rainwater. Waterloo has developed a water efficiency master plan. What could Vancouver learn from best practices in other cities?
Reference: Water restrictions start Monday, News 1130 (May 31, 2015)