What are the benefits of Water Conservation?

Water Conservation and demand management continue to be important components of the management of our long term drinking water supply. The benefits of lower demand are:

  • Capital project delay — Less water being used by the community can delay the need to build new expensive water infrastructure that would be necessary to provide increased capacity if demand continues to rise.
  • Fisheries releases — In addition to the water used by customers, water from CRD water reservoirs is released to enhance fish habitat in the Sooke River, Charters River and Goldstream River.
  • Buffers against the unknown — With the effects of climate change, shorter, more intense rain events as well as longer, dry spells in the summer months are expected. Having as much water storage in the reservoir as possible provides the assurance that not only will there be a sufficient quantity of drinking water for the year, but it also provides the flexibility to deal with changing weather and precipitation patterns and forest fires.
  • Save time and money — Planting native species that are adapted to the long, dry summers in the region, require little to no watering once established.Spend more time enjoying your garden, instead of maintaining it.
  • Water quality — Less annual fluctuation in Sooke Lake Reservoir water level contributes to a more biologically stable reservoir, through less opportunity for sediment re-suspension and nutrient loading, and longer water detention time within the reservoir (which has a number of resulting benefits such as lower turbidity, low colour, neutral pH, low bacteria, and low parasites).
  • Save energy — Water conservation helps reduce the amount of energy used to process and deliver water to homes. Shorter showers will save water as well as energy used to heat the water.

We have had a lot of rain and our reservoir is at capacity. Why conserve?

During winter months, water consumption across Greater Victoria averages around 98 million litres per day. In the summer months, even with Stage 1 water restrictions in effect, water consumption across Greater Victoria almost doubles to around 175 million litres per day due to outdoor use. Since the reservoir receives little to no inflow (rainfall) between May and late October when fall and winter precipitation begins, the summer use draws down the reservoir level, meaning Greater Victoria's drinking water supply relies entirely on the water stored during the winter months. Starting conservation in May, early in the peak demand season, we can ensure there is enough available to meet drinking water demand, for fire protection and to support fish and ecosystems, especially through the dry, hot months.

We also do not have exclusive rights to the water in the Sooke Watershed. Under federal and provincial legislation, we cannot take water from the Sooke Watershed without consideration of ecological impacts downstream of the dam, meaning we cannot completely empty the Sooke Lake Reservoir. To meet these requirements, an agreement was negotiated between the CRD, the federal and provincial governments and the T’Sou-ke First Nation to share this limited resource.

In addition, population growth in the capital region is expected to reach 454,628 by 2028, with continued growth in future years. With this in mind, the CRD will need to develop a new source, such as the Leech River, which would be very expensive, estimated at over $100 million. Water conservation and efficiency programs, including the water conservation bylaw, prolong the need to construct such infrastructure expansions.

What is the capacity of the Sooke Lake Reservoir?

The capacity of the Sooke Lake Reservoir is 92.7 million cubic meters or 20.4 billion gallons.

During what months is the Stage 1 Water Conservation Bylaw in effect?

May 1 through to September 30 every year, unless otherwise stipulated by the General Manager of the Capital Regional District Integrated Water Services Department.

When is lawn watering permitted during the Water Conservation Bylaw for Stage 1?

Lawn watering is permitted twice a week under the following schedule for residential, commercial and institutional purposes:

  • Even-numbered addresses only on Wednesday and Saturday between the hours of 4 - 10am and 7 - 10pm.
  • Odd-numbered addresses only on Thursday and Sunday between the hours of 4 - 10am and 7 - 10pm.

*In the case of a multi-unit commercial or residential complex such as, but not limited to, a townhouse, condominium or other strata-titled property, means the numerical portion of the street address that is assigned to the entire complex, and not the individual unit number.

The CRD appreciates your water saving efforts and would like to thank all residents in the capital region for your continued support protecting our drinking water supply.

When can I water my trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables during the Water Conservation Bylaw for Stage 1?

You may water your trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables any day with a Sprinkler between the hours of 4—10 am and 7—10 pm and on any day at any time if watering is done by hand-held container, or a hand held hose equipped with an automatic shut-off nozzle, or a Micro/Drip irrigation system. Please note soaker hoses are considered to be a sprinkler.

When can I water my newly planted trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables during the Water Conservation Bylaw for Stage 1?

You may water your newly planted trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables by Sprinkler, hand-held container, or a hand held hose equipped with an automatic shut-off nozzle, or a Micro/Drip irrigation system during installation and for the following 24 hours.

Can I install and water new sod or a newly seeded lawn during the Water Conservation Bylaw for Stage 1?

Yes, a permit is not required. Water wisely and efficiently between the hours of 4 - 10am and 7 - 10pm for new sod on installation and during the first 21 days after installation, and newly seeded lawns until growth is established or for 49 days after installations, whichever is less.

Once your new lawn is established, please revert back to your designated lawn watering days and times. Remember your lawn only requires one inch of water each week, including rainfall.

Can I power wash sidewalks, driveways or parking lots, exterior windows or exterior building surfaces during Stage 1 of the Water Conservation Bylaw?

Yes. You may power wash sidewalks, driveways or parking lots, exterior windows or exterior building surfaces using no more water than necessary to complete the task. Avoid excess water run-off and water spreading to surrounding areas. Please be water wise and use a stiff broom to clean outdoor surfaces just as quickly and uses far less drinking water.

Can I wash my vehicle or boat during the Water Conservation Bylaw for Stage 1?

Yes. A person may wash their vehicle or boat anytime using a hand held container or a hand held hose equipped with an automatic shut-off nozzle, and at car dealerships or commercial car washes.

Please wash your vehicle on the lawn, when possible, to minimize water waste and reduce runoff like oil, gas and metals from going down the storm strain and entering our waterways and marine environments.

Follow the Clean Drain Dry procedure for your boat to reduce the spread of invasive species. Boats and other watercrafts like kayaks and canoes, can easily transfer harmful invasive species from one waterbody to another. Clean off all plant parts, animals, and mud from boat and equipment (e.g., boots, waders, fishing gear). Drain onto land all items that can hold water (e.g., buckets, wells, bilge, and ballast). Dry all items completely before launching into another body of water.

Can I use water to fill my wading pool, swimming pool, hot tub, or garden pond during the Water Conservation Bylaw for Stage 1?

Yes. You may use water to fill wading pools, swimming pools, hot tubs, or garden ponds. An uncovered swimming pool can lose up to one inch of water a week. Consider covering your water features to prevent evaporation loss.

What about municipalities and public authorities lawn and boulevard watering?

Municipalities may water lawns and boulevards on Mondays and Fridays during the hours of 1 - 10am and 7 - 10pm.

All public authorities may water public, institutional or community playing fields* during the hours of 1 - 10am and 7 - 10pm on any day except Wednesday. Watering outside the allowed times will result in a permanent loss of plant material.

All public authorities may water trees, shrubs, flowers & vegetable gardens at the times and in the manner prescribed under Stage 1.

*Public, institutional or community playing field means grass, sod or turf covered grounds that are owned, maintained or operated by a public authority, or by a private institution such as a private school and are designed to be played upon, or that are used for sporting or other community events and activities, but for certainty does not include a lawn or turf on private residential property.

When may Golf Course Owners and Operators water?

During Stage 1, golf course owners and operators may water fairways on any day during the hours of 4—10 am and 7—10 pm.

Golf greens and tees many be watered on any day if failure to do so will result in permanent loss of plant material.

Trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables grown on golf courses may be watered in accordance with Stage 1 designated times.

Does the Water Conservation Bylaw apply to Nurseries, Farms, Turf or Tree farms?

Nurseries, farms, turf farms and tree farms are exempt from the Water Conservation Bylaw 4099.

Does the Water Conservation Bylaw 4099 apply to properties not connected to the Sooke Lake Reservoir?

Bylaw 4099 does not apply to properties not connected to the Sooke Lake Reservoir Drinking Water Supply system; properties receiving water from private wells or private irrigation water source; federal and First Nation lands.

It also does not apply to outdoor areas that may be required by law to be cleaned to comply with health or safety regulations.

What is a Micro/Drip Irrigation system?

Micro/drip irrigation systems are defined as using low volume irrigation components which  consume less than 20 gallons per hour and operate at less than 25 PSI to deliver water to the root zone of the plant material being irrigated. This includes spray emitter systems (micro spray), point source emitter and linear tape systems as defined in the BC Trickle Irrigation Manual prepared and published by the Irrigation Industry Association of British Columbia (1999), but does not include weeper hoses or soaker hoses.

As this method of irrigation is very water efficient, it is exempt from the bylaw watering schedule days and times for established trees, shrubs, flower and vegetable gardens, however mid-day watering is never recommended due to evaporation lost as a result of warmer mid-day temperatures.

There are many types of micro/drip irrigation systems depending on your lawn and garden needs. Check out the resources below for what system may be right for you:

How much water do green lawns need?

Green lawns only need an inch (2.5 cm) of water per week including rainfall even in the driest conditions. To determine how long it takes to water an inch, place empty tuna cans around your lawn. Time how long it takes to fill the tuna cans with water (an inch or 2.5 cm). The recorded time is the maximum time required to run your sprinkler each week. If it took an hour to fill the tuna can, the lawn could be watered for one hour once a week or for 30 minutes twice a week.

Make sure your sprinkler is only watering lawn and garden landscapes and not the driveway or sidewalk.

How can I prevent water run-off and water waste when watering my lawn and gardens?

Our regions water consumption near doubles in the summer months in part due to do outdoor irrigation. Given the most common residential landscape in the CRD continues to be the lawn, it's where we often see the most water waste.

During our hot, dry summers, soil can develop a top, crust layer that is difficult for water to penetrate and absorb, resulting in water running off down driveways and sidewalks into storm drains.

To avoid this water waste, introduce the Cycle and Soak irrigation method. Turn your watering system or sprinkler on for one minute and then shut off. This allows the water to slowly absorb and penetrate this top, dry layer. After 10 minutes, turn your system back on to provide the full water application your garden or lawn needs. Soil is now able to absorb the water and penetrate down into plant roots, where the water is needed. Remember it just takes one, your lawn needs a maximum of one inch (25 mm) of water each week, including rainfall. Deep, infrequent watering promotes a strong root system, which is better able to obtain water and nutrients and withstand dry spells.

Reducing evaporation from your lawn and garden can cut down on water waste and means you can water less often. Mow grass to a height of 5-6 cm to keep roots shaded and better able to retain water. Leave grass clippings on the lawn for mini mulch to reduce evaporation.

Water waste can also be reduced by aerating compacted areas of your lawns so air, water and nutrients can reach the roots. This can be done easily by poking holes in the lawn and top soil down to six to eight centimeters using a gardening fork. Manual and powered aerators are also available.

Install a micro/drip irrigation system that uses low-water-volume irrigation components (under 20 gallons per hour), at low pressure (under 25 psi) to deliver a precise amount of water to the root zone of plants, where it is needed most. Water is applied slowly, which allows water to penetrate the soil reducing runoff and evaporation. These systems can be tailored effectively to individual plant and garden needs.

What is the difference between the CRD water schedule stages and the Province drought levels?

The provincial government has a four-level drought classification based on drought conditions that is applied to all BC communities. Level 1 means there is sufficient water to meet human and ecosystems needs. At Level 4, the highest drought level, there is insufficient water to meet human and ecosystem needs and the Province has the authority to require reduced water use such as reducing the amount of water provincial water-license holders can take or temporarily suspend them. Voluntary water conservation is encouraged.

The CRD watering schedule bylaw has three stages specific to the capital region. The stages are based on the water demand, storage levels in the Sooke Lake Reservoir and temperature and precipitation conditions and forecasts. This bylaw helps to ensure there is adequate supply for drinking water demands, fire protection, water quality and ecosystem support. Due to the stable water supply and conservation measures taken by residents, the CRD has not needed to implement Stage 2 or 3 water restrictions since the Sooke Lake Reservoir dam was raised in 2002.

Does the decrease in water demand affect my wholesale water rate?

In recent years, overall annual water demand has been decreasing across the region, primarily due to decreasing indoor demand related to the increased use of high-efficiency appliances and low-flow fixtures, and to a lesser extent, decreasing outdoor demand. The 2020 Regional Water Supply wholesale water rate is $0.6968 per cubic metre. The wholesale water rate is the rate that the distributors' (municipalities) pay for the water and ensures sufficient funding to support the delivery of high quality, safe drinking water through a reliable and efficient drinking water system. The distributors (municipalities) then set the retail water rate that the residents and businesses pay — the wholesale water price accounts for about 40% of the price charged by the retail water suppliers.