Council discusses water usage and restrictions.

As drought season draws closer, council is looking at enforcement of water restrictions.

“We felt like it was really important to put this into open discussion and so that council would feel comfortable to community members to come and ask them about what we think is our best plan to action for managing water usage during drought conditions,” said Chief Administrative Officer Cynthia White.

Currently, Merritt is at Level 3 water restrictions meaning that residents are able to water their lawns two times per week (hand water is not exempt); use garden sprinklers two times per week. Hand watering of vegetable gardens, trees and shrubs is allowed anytime but hoses must have an auto shut-off valve.

Under Level 3, cleaning vehicles is allowed anytime for hoses with auto shut-off valves, wash over grass or gravel when possible. Pools may only be topped up. Drip irrigation is allowed anytime.

At Level 5, only hand watering and drip irrigation of vegetable gardens will be allowed, all aforementioned water amenities and utilities will not be permitted.

Photo/City of Merritt

As of April 12, 2024, Merritt’s groundwater levels are approximately 0.6 metres underneath the historical daily median. “Decisions for further higher-level restriction will hopefully not be required until June, and will depend largely on the amount of precipitation between now and then,” said director of public works and engineering services Rick Green.

Photo/City of Merritt

Green also noted starting this week, violators will be sent warning letters with letters being mailed to property owners and hand delivered to occupants.

“The general idea is not to fine people, I don’t want anybody’s money on this stuff, all we’re looking for is compliance, understanding, and understanding the situation that we’re in,” said Green during a council meeting. “So the goal here would be to identify somebody watering or using water outside of the restrictions, send them a letter… and let them know that this has been noticed and the first letter obviously is a warning.”

“But if we’re not getting the point across, I think I’d like to be able to turn water off if necessary, or at least throttle back to the point where: yes, they have water but not a lot of water, it’s gonna get your attention, it’s gonna get them calling us and we’re gonna be able to go and explain it to them,” said Green. “Once again, I don’t believe in fines for this type of thing, what I believe in is that we all do what we can to conserve water, so taking people’s money is not the goal.”