Water users throughout the Grand River watershed are being asked to cut their consumption by 10 per cent, because of the unusually dry weather this year.
Low rainfall since April has contributed to reduced stream flows in a number of tributaries throughout the watershed, and the Grand River Conservation Authority is using its large upstream reservoirs to augment river flows in order to maintain 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 1 under the Ontario Low Water Response Program.
Level 1 results in a request for a voluntary 10 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 limit watering to specific days and times.
“The Grand River watershed received very little rainfall in June, which has further contributed to the dry conditions. There is some rain in the forecast however, anticipated precipitation amounts remain quite low” according to Stephanie Shifflett, GRCA Water Resources Engineer. “The dry conditions combined with diminishing river and stream flows can place stress on the natural environment in the Grand River and its tributaries”.
The GRCA’s large reservoirs are within their normal operating range for this time of year, but increased discharges to maintain flow targets, coupled with high evaporation and low inflows means water levels will continue to drop.
The GRCA is operating these reservoirs carefully to meet flow targets downstream, while maintaining storage in order to help augment flows throughout the summer. Over the past week, augmentation from GRCA reservoirs accounted for approximately 85% of the flow in the Grand River through Kitchener, 40% of the flow through Brantford and about 50% 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.
More information on the Low Water Response Program is available on the GRCA website at www.grandriver.ca.