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Farm crops in jeopardy as Sunshine Coast moves to Stage 4 water restrictions


Stage 4 water restrictions took effect on the Sunshine Coast on Friday, which means almost all outdoor water use is now banned.

Commercial farms get a brief, two-week reprieve, but then they will also be forced to turn off the taps.

At Grounded Acres Organic Farm in Gibsons, owner Mel Sylvestre wonders why farms that grow food for local consumption are subject to the restrictions at all, when many other water-intensive businesses are allowed to carry on as normal.

"We are food. We are not concrete, we are not bottling water, we are not making beer. We are producing food," Sylvetsre said. "And we cannot just put a pause on our business and resume after. We lose crops when we get asked to stop."

Most of the drinking water on the Sunshine Coast comes from Chapman Lake, which dropped to just 14 per cent capacity this week.

Drought conditions have become more common on the Sunshine Coast in recent years, and last year the regional district declared a state of emergency that lasted into November.

"The lake actually froze over so that even when rain started to come in late fall, early winter, we still couldn't get the water we needed at that point," said Gibsons Mayor Silas White.

In the spring, he sent a letter to the province asking for permission to reduce the amount of water flowing out of Chapman Lake into Chapman Creek.

That move would potentially harm fish habitat but would preserve drinking water.

White says the province still hasn't made a decision on the request.

"That would have been a significant savings of water this summer," he said. "We would not need to be in Stage 4 at this point if that approval had come earlier, which is why I sent the letter on May 31 and why I'm not very pleased to be here today."

Staff at the Ministry of Forests were not able to provide an immediate response to a request for comment.

Back at Grounded Acres, there is concern over long-term impacts of water restrictions.

"We were not able to establish a good ground cover to retain our soil in place over winter so we lost a lot of fertility that way," said Sylvestre. "And if it's going to happen year after year, we are not going to be able to farm this land anymore."

The farm has 9,000 gallons of water in reserve tanks which it will rely on when the restrictions take effect in two weeks.

When the tanks run dry, any produce not ready for harvest will likely die on the vine. Top Stories

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