Metro okays ban on evening lawn sprinkling

Pre-9 a.m. watering policy will be 'challenging' for many

Metro Vancouver’s board has approved a new policy to outlaw evening lawn sprinkling but the ban won’t be enforced until the summer of 2012.

The shift to morning-only sprinkling to conserve water in peak consumption days means residents will only be permitted to water lawns between 4 and 9 a.m. on two weekday mornings plus one morning on the weekend, from June 1 to Sept. 30.

This summer is intended to be an “education year” as residents and businesses, who are also subject to morning-only rules, make the adjustment.

Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve said she’s not yet sure the five-hour window before 9 a.m. will be workable for many residents.

“That’s a bit challenging for people who are off to work early or taking kids to school and not coming back,” she said.

Metro hopes more people will use automated sprinkling systems that can be programmed to water in the wee hours of the morning, when demand is low and evaporation is minimal.

“Some people have the luxury of a sprinkling system,” Villeneuve said. “But many people water by hand or just with a small sprinkling device.”

She wants to see how education efforts play out before endorsing enforcement of the policy in 2012.

“We do need more time,” Villeneuve said. “Otherwise what you’re going to see is people sneaking around trying to water because they’re not available in the mornings to do so.”

Until now, residents have been allowed to water only two days a week, depending on their address, but could do so from 4 to 9 a.m. and 7 to 10 p.m.

Under the new system, even-numbered addresses get Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, while odd-numbered homes get Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

The rules would limit businesses and institutions, thought to mostly use programmable systems, to between 1 and 6 a.m.

It’s estimated morning-only sprinkling will cut regional water use at peak hours by 12 per cent and by three per cent on peak days.

The rules are the first stage of Metro’s revised water conservation policy, and only target lawns, not the watering of gardens or trees. Playing fields and golf courses are also exempt.

The policy provides for tighter rules yet as water supplies dwindle – from allowing sprinkling just once a week to an outright ban on all watering.

Metro Vancouver officials say established lawns need only an hour of sprinkling a week if there’s no rain. They hope residents embrace browner lawns as a badge of sustainability.

The region has plenty of drinking water most of the year but needs to control peak period summer use or else it will be forced to spend big bucks constructing new reservoirs or storage tanks.