City Council took steps to protect public safety this week by approving a bylaw amendment that allows the City’s new Water Rationing Action Plan to be implemented, if it becomes necessary. The plan will help City staff and residents prepare, respond and recover from both long-term and unexpected, emergency water issues.
In February, Council was briefed on concerns for a potential shortage of water in the region this summer and presented a Water Rationing Action Plan for consideration. Given the lower than usual precipitation in the last year, current forecasts, and the present state of the Oldman River Reservoir and St. Mary River Reservoir, council voted in favour of putting the plan in place, should it be needed.
“The rationing plan is a proactive approach to managing a possible water shortage this year and into the future,” says Mayor Chris Spearman. “This week marks the national Emergency Preparedness Week so I think it is very fitting that we approved this plan today as a way to help our community take the important steps needed to be prepared for emergency water issues.”
The Water Rationing Action Plan outlines the importance of engaging with the community in advance of and during a water shortage. It includes effective communication channels and education to help residents understand what would be expected of them during water rationing. In addition, the plan can impose fines for non-compliance with a water rationing order.
For long-lasting situations, the action plan describes four stages with increasing restrictions on water use. It also identifies the rapid and intense response required for short-term water emergencies. The strategies include measures such as restricting days and times when watering can be done, discouraging car washing and closing spray parks. This model was based on similar plans from California and British Columbia.
“I encourage residents to become familiar with the different stages of this plan,” says Councillor Bridget Mearns, chair of the City’s Environment Committee. “If we are faced with a situation when water rationing has to be imposed, it will take the efforts of the entire community to ensure we can project our City’s water supply.”
The City of Lethbridge has on a rare occasion imposed water rationing in response to short-term situations such as infrastructure and water quality issues. There are over 100,000 users of the City of Lethbridge water system. To view the Water Rationing Action Plan visit www.lethbridge.ca.