City of Merritt councillors voted to alter the 2012 sprinkling regulations to make it more convenient for residents to water lawns and flower beds.

Council initially adopted the Water Resource Advisory Committee’s recommendation to change times for manual sprinklers to 8 to 10 a.m. and 8 to 10 p.m. on April 10; however, based on public feedback, council changed the manual sprinkling times to 6 to 8 a.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. at last Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

The time for automatic sprinklers remains from 1 to 5 a.m.

The times were altered, despite a WRAC recommendation to adhere to the initial 2012 sprinkling times for the remainder of the season.

“It is felt that the regulations should be tried out for one full summer season and review the schedule for 2013,” read the minutes from the committee’s June 13 meeting.

Council made the original change so that sprinkling times would not coincide with peak household water usage times to help reduce the time needed for the aquifer to rebound, and to reduce stress on the pumps to keep up with water demand.

Even in April though, some councillors said they were concerned that people would not have enough time to water – concerns that seemed to be warranted based on community feedback over the last two months.

“I can’t do it myself,” said Coun. Dave Baker of watering during the original sprinkling times. “Fully realizing we have a water problem, we’re not giving our residents enough time.”

Mayor Susan Roline reported to council the many concerns expressed by residents, many of whom left for work too early to water at 8 a.m. and were in bed too early to water until 10 p.m.

“We have many residents who work shift work, so are away from home up to 12 and 14 hours a day,” said Roline in a letter to Ginny Prowal, WRAC chair. “We also have residents that are working two jobs just to stay afloat.

“By now giving them another daunting task of trying to manage watering times, it is becoming too much.”

Roline’s letter continued to say that soon residents would simply give up trying to keep their yards looking nice if the City made it difficult to water.

“For us to expect every property owner to convert to xeroscaping is unrealistic.”

During the meeting, Public Works Superintendent Darrell Finnigan clarified that residents would use the same volume of water no matter what the sprinkling times were – however, the rationale behind the later watering times was to maintain a constant level in the reservoir.

When put to vote, council decided these measures weren’t worth the hassle to residents.

The WRAC continue to educate residents about water conservation through various efforts such as xeriscaping workshops.

According to Merritt’s 2011 Annual Report, water for the City’s water system is extracted from an aquifer through four pump stations. Last year nearly three billion litres of water was consumed within the Merritt system – a 0.5 per cent increase from 2010.

Maximum daily water demand peaked at 19 million litres on July 5, 2011, which represents an average of 2,405 litres per person that day.

The overall average for the year was 1,007 litres per person in Merritt each day of the year (based on a population of 8,000) compared to the average daily consumption in Canada, which is 329 litres per person.