City of Kamloops preparing bylaw changes to support new drought response plan

City readies for drought

Kamloops council has directed staff to start working on bylaw changes which, if approved, will support a new drought response plan as the city looks to prepare for a potentially dry season ahead.

Council voted unanimously in favour of preparing the changes to its waterworks and municipal ticket information bylaws during its Tuesday meeting. Proposed bylaw amendments will return to council for review and adoption at a later date.

After hearing an overview of the drought response plan, Coun. Kelly Hall said he liked how the city was intending to shift away from its odd day, even day sprinkling schedule and towards a new, three-day watering system.

Hall told Greg Wightman, the city’s utility services manager, that he also liked the incorporation of a phased irrigation reduction plan, which provides guidelines for City of Kamloops crews to reduce water use during times of drought while protecting public assets.

“It just shows me that you and your team did a tremendous amount of work over the last six months, maybe even perhaps in the last year, in preparing for what is going to be a significant drought year for the City of Kamloops,” Hall said.

Wightman told council in 2023, the city spent 105 days sitting at drought level 4 or 5 — a provincial classification indicating adverse impacts from drought are likely, or almost certain.

Last summer, a city team developed an action plan to respond to the extreme drought, and the community came together to significantly reduce its water use.

The new drought response plan incorporates community feedback and strategies employed by other municipalities. It is organized around a provincial drought classification system, intended to reduce water use during times of drought, protect potable water, ensure an adequate water supply for emergencies, and protect the environment.

Wightman said the plan will move the city to year-round watering restrictions, which is becoming more common.

“It's an acknowledgement of the changing climate, springs get warmer earlier. We all love how fantastic September has been of late, but that extends the irrigation season as well,” Wightman said.

A three-day residential watering system will allow flexibility to gradually reduce water use if drought levels escalate. New guidelines in the plan will allow for drip irrigation as a method that can be used through all drought levels.

Coun. Margot Middleton asked if household irrigation systems will be able to be programmed to allow for three days of watering per week.

Wightman said older systems may need upgrades, but generally speaking, most systems are very programmable. He noted city staff will seek to have a conversation with a homeowner about their system before ticketing.

Wightman noted in 2023, there wasn’t a need to issue penalties.

“We visited a lot of people, did a lot of education, and we didn't see a lot of resistance to the restrictions,” he said.

Coun. Nancy Bepple asked if the city's arborists had been consulted about the drought plan, noting trees in the city’s parks are worth quite a bit of money.

Wightman said the drought plan outlines restrictions for specific categories such as lawns, food-producing plants and crops, and trees, shrubs and flowers.

“We now include trees and shrubs as a stand alone category,” Wightman said.

“People were saying, ‘I’m fine with my grass going brown but my tree needs to continue to live,’ and we agree. So that’s why you’ve got some different restrictions, lawns are going to go brown, we hope trees don’t.”

The full drought response plan and staff report can be found in the Feb. 27 council meeting agenda.

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