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Metro eyes evening lawn sprinkling ban to conserve water

New morning-only rule would add a third day on weekends
Lawn sprinkling will be limited to morning hours only starting this summer

Evening water sprinkling may be a thing of the past as Metro Vancouver mulls tighter restrictions to preserve its water supply on hot summer days.

Metro is contemplating amendments to its Water Shortage Response Plan that would limit residential lawn sprinkling to just 4 to 9 a.m. in the mornings on three days a week – an increase of one from the current two-day limit during the summer sprinkling restriction period.

Currently, lawn sprinkling from June 1 to Sept. 30 is allowed from 4 to 9 a.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. on two permitted days a week. Even-numbered addresses get Wednesdays and Saturdays, while odd addresses can sprinkle Thursdays and Sundays.

Under the proposed change, residents would also get to sprinkle on either Saturday or Sunday mornings, giving them an overall 15-hour window each week to green up their lawns.

Metro Vancouver generally has plenty of drinking water but the system struggles to deliver enough water throughout the region at peak times in the summer.

Metro policy and planning department senior engineer Stan Woods estimates the new measures would cut the water use rate at peak hours by 12 per cent and by three per cent on peak days.

Demand is lower in mornings than evenings and Woods said the change would spread lawn sprinkling demand out more evenly over the week.

It would also be easy to enforce, with evening sprinkling banned outright.

Woods points to the experience in Abbotsford, where morning-only sprinkling rules have been in effect the last three summers with "relatively few complaints."

Most businesses and institutions have automated sprinkling systems that can simply be reprogrammed to the new times, his report said.  They'd be limited to between 1 and 6 a.m.

Watering of gardens, trees, playing fields and golf courses wouldn't be affected by the sprinkling rule change.

The proposed changes still must be approved by the Metro Vancouver board.

And some directors are calling for a one-year delay before bringing in the new schedule.

"It's too late in the process," Surrey Coun. Marvin Hunt said, adding most municipalities have already sent out their calendars and rules for sprinkling for the year. "Let's let this be an education year."

Metro officials say an established lawn needs only an hour of sprinkling a week – if it doesn't rain.

The region plans to continue to urge residents not to waste water on their lawns, advising them to let their lawns go dormant in summer with messaging like "brown is the new green in lawn care."

Conservation helps the region reduce water pumping costs and avoid the eventual need to build costly new major infrastructure, like new reservoirs.