As the hot, dry summer weather continues, water users throughout the Grand River watershed are now being asked to cut their consumption by 20 per cent.
Between mid-June and mid-July, the watershed received approximately 25 per cent of the normal amount of precipitation for that period. Recent rainfall has had a minimal impact on local waterways and total rainfall amounts are well below the 90mm average normally expected in July. The Grand River Conservation Authority is using its large upstream reservoirs to augment river flows to meet low flow targets on the Grand and Speed rivers.
The call for the reduction came from the Grand River Low Water Response Team, which held a virtual meeting on Wednesday. The team is made up of representatives of major water users including municipalities, farmers, golf course operators, water bottlers, aggregate businesses and others.
The Low Water Response Team decided to place the entire watershed at Level 2 under the Ontario Low Water Response Program. The last time a Level 2 condition was declared for the entire watershed was in 2016.
Level 2 results in a request for a voluntary 20 per cent reduction in water consumption by all water users, including municipalities, aggregate operations, golf courses, water bottlers, farms for irrigation and private users. For residents, the most effective thing they can do right now is to follow their municipal outdoor water use bylaws, which limits or restricts activities such as car washing and lawn watering.
Conditions are incredibly dry for this time of year and while any rainfall helps, many of the weather systems we have seen this summer have been localized and fall well short of delivering the amount of precipitation needed” according to Stephanie Shifflett, GRCA Water Resources Engineer. “Reducing water use helps ensure there is adequate water supply for drinking water and wastewater treatment.
The GRCA’s large reservoirs remain within their normal operating range for this time of year, however discharges have been increased to maintain flows downstream. Increased discharge, combined with evaporation due to persistent hot, dry weather will add further pressure to all GRCA reservoirs as water levels decrease.
The GRCA is operating these reservoirs carefully to meet flow targets downstream, while managing storage in order to augment river flows throughout the summer. Over the past week, augmentation from GRCA reservoirs accounted for approximately 80% of the flow in the Grand River through Kitchener, 45% of the flow through Brantford and about 55% of the Speed River flow through Guelph. This augmentation helps municipalities that get some, or all of their drinking water from the Grand River including Waterloo Region, Brantford and Six Nations. Water from these reservoirs also support the proper operation of about 30 wastewater treatment plants throughout the watershed. As the augmentation season progresses, the conditions of the reservoirs will be closely monitored and reviewed.