That dusting of snow that appeared on the mountains earlier this month got some water watchers excited.
But not the Town of Ladysmith.
The lack of snowpack that has communities all over the island bracing for a dry summer is largely irrelevant here, according to the town’s director of infrastructure services.
The Holland Lake reservoir was full Jan. 1. The town can’t store any more water. Our current issue, according to John Manson, is not rainfall, nor snowpack, it’s storage capacity.
Conservation measures are — and will likely continue to be — necessary every spring until we raise the dam.
“Holland Lake is at 500 metres. In the greater scheme of things that’s very low. We don’t typically rely on a lot of snowpack,” Manson said. “When you talk about snowpack, it doesn’t matter if we get less snowpack. It’s been a pretty average year for rain.”
Raising the dam 1.5 meters as a way to increase storage is part of about $35-40 million in water system improvements staff feel is needed over the next 10 years.
A majority of Town officials consider raising the dam to be our highest infrastructure priority. But provincial regulations governing uncovered community water supplies mean a $10 million filtration plant has to happen first.
In the meantime, Manson said the town is ready for whatever Mother Nature brings this summer.
As long as the rains continue, the town typically draws only from Chicken Ladder in order to preserve what’s in Holland Lake. Stocking Lake, our secondary source, was nearly full as well.
Manson said he expects the Town to announce a comprehensive schedule of water restrictions by early May. It will be done in conjunction with North Cowichan, Lake Cowichan and the Cowichan Valley Regional District in order to make regulations consistent throughout the regional district.
“The Cowichan Valley all got together at a staff level to co-ordinate the restrictions so it is consistent,” Manson said.
Early restrictions will likely limit watering to seven or eight hours a week, then escalate as necessary.
“People don’t tend to water until June anyway, so it’s more an educational thing.”
Manson said the people of Ladysmith continue to do a good job of conserving water. Even with last year’s dry conditions, the level of Holland Lake only dropped to about 50 percent.
“We are one of the lowest consumers of water. We’ve been leaders in terms of water consumption — way ahead for B.C.”
The town continues to offer a rebate program to encourage homeowners to install low-flush toilets. Low-flow washing machines are also encouraged, as well as paying attention to any water being wasted down the drain through regular day-to-day use.
Rainwater and gray water collection can help, but for Manson the biggest thing he encourages people to watch out for is unnecessary irrigation.
“A good watering once a week is better than bunch of little ones,” he said. “Don’t just put your sprinklers on and let them go.”