When it rains…

So far 2011 has been a year of weather extremes. During the first half of the year Guelph received 30% more precipitation than usual. However just when we were wondering whether summer would begin at all, the rain dried up, the sun came out, and we experienced one of the driest Julys on record, with 70% less rainfall than average during the month of July. Unfortunately, this also happened to coincide with what is the communities peak season for water use due to increased in outdoor (for lawn watering) and process related water use (for premise cooling).

Luckily, rain received in the early spring had recharged our groundwater and local rivers enough that even during the height of July’s drought, river flows remained above low flow levels and our groundwater supply was not threatened. However, the question remains: what would we have done about the drought in a year without a wet spring?

Enter Guelph’s Outside Water Use Program (OWUP).  The OWUP is designed to reduce water demand during the summer months when our groundwater supply is vulnerable to overuse. This is especially important in Guelph, where we are one of Canada’s largest cities to rely solely on groundwater for our municipal water supply.

The OWUP was created in 2002 in response to the Ontario Low Water Response Plan in order to conserve Guelph’s groundwater supply and protect against the impact of drought during the hot, dry summer months. The Program has three levels that affect residential outside water use, triggered by dry weather and local watershed conditions:

  • Level 0 Blue—Careful Use
  • Level 1 Yellow—Reduce Outside Use
  • Level 2 Red—Reduce and Stop Non-essential Use

 In Level 0 – Blue, our standard outside water use level, lawn watering is only permitted on alternate days, and only between 7-9 a.m. and 7-9 p.m. Water wasting – such as letting a sprinkler or hose run onto pavement – is never allowed. As conditions require, further outdoor restrictions are implemented as part of Levels 1 and 2.

Thanks to the support of Guelphites, our OWUP has become one of the most successful and well-recognized water conservation programs in Ontario. In fact, our research has shown that over 95% of residents recognize and follow the levels in place each summer. This overwhelming support has helped reduce Guelph’s average summer daily water use by over 8.6 million litres per day since 2002.

Thank you Guelph for playing an important role in protecting and conserving our precious groundwater supply!  Residents and businesses today understand that a lawn will go dormant during a drought and return with the rain.  This program saves money by avoiding the construction of infrastructure and protects the environment.

For more information on the City’s Outside Water Program please visit the ‘Outside Water Use Program’ section of http://www.guelph.ca/water   As part of this site, residents may also review weekly Condition Reports which track trends in climate, watershed flows and water production levels throughout the spring and summer months.


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About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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One Comment on “When it rains…”

  1. Al van der Laan Says:

    I think we should stop asking about the what ifs regarding a drought. We should stop watering grass, what sense is it to pour this expensive water that gets pumped from our soils to be treated so we can drink it and again we keep pouring it back in the ground…. Just to keep weeds growing, yes people grass is a weed!! It can handle long periods of drought, it will be fine, soon after the fall rains start you will notice that the lawn starts greening.
    Our beautiful cars that shine so nice after we wash them – soap and suds flow back into the water basins…. We are so wasteful, there are alternatives that people are allowed to try like rainwater barrels, like not wash your car every week etc. We could do so much more to truly preserve water!

    Imagine if there was a real drought, if we did not see rain for two years and our prairies became a dessert….. If we are unable to grow enough food for the population, would you then finally realize that water is not something to be wasted?

    Yet we live in a world of plenty and as long as there is plenty why worry about these things – I would say to you that we should cherish these moments that we have plenty of water and do everything possible to preserve this luxury for future generations.

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