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Vancouver issues $76K in fines for illegal watering in less than 4 weeks

The City of Vancouver has issued more than $160,000 in fines for violations of water restrictions this year, with almost half of the total coming in the last month.

Updated data provided to CTV News Wednesday shows a total of 496 monetary tickets issued between May 1 – the annual start of watering restrictions – and Sept. 3. Bylaw officers have also issued 732 warnings during that span, according to the city.

"Any watering outside of permitted hours witnessed by a bylaw officer results in a ticket with a fine," the city said in an emailed statement.

"Warnings are issued when there is some indication of watering outside of hours ( i.e. damp lawn, watermarks on sidewalk/roadway) but the violation is not actively witnessed by the officer or the evidence is not substantial."

Of the 496 tickets issued, 344 came before Metro Vancouver moved to Stage 2 water restrictions on Aug. 4.

Those tickets were for $250 apiece, meaning the city will collect a total of $86,000 in fines if all of the tickets are paid.

Since the switch to Stage 2 restrictions, 152 tickets have been issued at the higher rate of $500 each, equating to a total of $76,000 between Aug. 4 and Aug. 27, the most recent date for which data is available.

The province remains in the midst of an unprecedented drought.

At a news conference Wednesday, Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma called the situation a "sleeping giant" of a natural disaster, and warned that if the winter brings a sudden switch to heavy rain – as it did in 2021 – there could be a repeat of that year's catastrophic flooding.

Although much of British Columbia has seen some cooler, wetter weather in recent weeks, watering restrictions remain in place.

Metro Vancouver is the regional wholesale supplier of water and sets conservation policies, which are then enforced by bylaw officers in individual municipalities.

It says local drinking water reservoirs are in pretty good shape right now, but residents must remain vigilant to protect our supplies this fall.

"Our reservoirs are at 56 per cent of their maximum, but that water has to last us right through to when the rains come back. The outlook for the weather for September and into October is for dry weather,” said Linda Parkinson, director of policy planning and analysis in the water services department for Metro Vancouver.

Stage 2 water restrictions in Metro Vancouver, which includes a ban on all lawn-watering took effect Aug. 4.

Water demand was very high in May, June, the first half of July compared to 2022.

It peaked at 1.5 billion litres per day.

The increase in consumption is being blamed on a long stretch of hot and dry weather.

The region typically sees a 50-per-cent jump in the summer months due to discretionary use like lawn and garden watering, power washing, and car washing.

The current water restrictions will remain in place until at least Oct. 15, but the regional district says they could be extended, especially if people don’t reduce their consumption.

Demand has decreased with the cooler weather to 1.2 billion litres per day.

“Right now, we think with ongoing help from the public and from the members with enforcement and education, that if we can sustain this, this lower daily demand, we can stay in Stage 2,” said Parkinson.

Municipalities like Vancouver are responsible for handing out fines and warnings, and the issuance of $76,000 worth of tickets in less than four weeks suggests they've stepped up enforcement.

Metro Vancouver officials suspect automatic watering systems are the biggest culprit when it comes to violating restrictions.

There are currently no plans to move to Stage 3 restrictions, according to the regional district. Top Stories

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