Water districts react to a low runoff

June 6, 2009

Expect green lawns to go brown this summer.

It’s been a very dry spring and already one water district in Kelowna has restricted residents to sprinkling no more than two days a week.

The South East Kelowna Irrigation District announced late Friday afternoon that effective immediately, the allotment for metered agricultural users will be reduced 20 per cent in order to try and get through summer without running out of water.

“The runoff from the low snowpack last winter is just not enough to replenish our water supplies going into the irrigation season,” said general manager Toby Pike.

“It’s critical that we reduce demand to avoid running out of water.”

McCulloch Reservoir is estimated to be at 67 per cent of capacity, where normally at this time of year, it would be full and spilling.

Pike said it’s the lowest it’s been in the last 15 years that he can recall.

The Westbank Irrigation District is also experiencing record low reservoir levels, said manager Brian Jamieson.

He said this will be the first year in its history that Lambly (Bear) Lake has not filled.

Neither it nor Tadpole Lake, a higher-elevation, more recent addition to the district’s network of reservoirs, are expected to fill, with Lambly down 48.4 centimetres and Tadpole down 94 cm.

Jamieson said the district hasn’t yet made the decision to implement stage two of the drought management plan, which would restrict use for residential sprinkling to two days a week, but a decision likely will be made next Thursday by trustees.

Normally, Lambly is full and spilling water by the end of June, and this year, he said they are already using the storage in that reservoir instead.

He’s also concerned about the amount of use in the district. Thursday, he said the demand was 33 megalitres and it’s only the beginning of June. Last year, the maximum demand was 37.8 megalitres on a July day in mid-summer.

“A couple of weeks of rain would make a big difference,” he said hopefully.

However, meteorologist Gabor Fricska said that’s not in the immediate forecast.

In March, April and May, the total rainfall was 42.5 millilitres this year. The average for those three months is 87.6 ml.

In May alone, the average precipitation is 39 ml, while this year it was 14.5 ml.

Typically, June is the wettest month of the year, but the first week has been the continuation of a hot, dry spell, although some showers are expected next week.

Temperatures in May ran the gamut of record lows at the beginning of the month, to near-record highs in the last part of the month, making it a month of average temperature overall.

Residential water users in SEKID are restricted to watering Tuesdays and Saturdays if their addresses are odd-numbered and on Wednesdays and Sundays if they are even-numbered.

“The district will be monitoring the water supply carefully in the coming weeks and months and additional conservation measures will be taken if necessary. All residents are urged to think about the water they use and use it wisely,” said Pike.