By Spencer Hall, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

McBride Mayor Gene Runtz says he wants more public consultation on a proposed Village bylaw that seeks to encourage residents to conserve water before council gets to final voting stages.

Village of McBride staff drafted Water Bylaw No. 822, 2023 in response to extreme drought conditions affecting the flow of Dominion Creek ” McBride’s only source of drinking water. The drought also resulted in the Village declaring a state of local emergency on September 19th and implementing water usage restrictions on September 20th.

The bylaw failed to pass at council’s most recent meeting by a vote of four to one after several councilors said they needed more information before they’d be comfortable moving forward.

Runtz said he felt language in the bylaw was too specific and wanted more public engagement before council considers adopting it, which is why council plans to host a committee of the whole meeting on the evening of November 7th.

“We can discuss everything that way and have the public involved with it more because the new bylaw is so specific on some items,” Runtz said. “I think people really need to look at it before it gets to the stage where we do the final voting on it and doing a committee of the whole would give people the ability to do that.”

The proposed bylaw lays out four different stages of water restrictions for the Village based on water supply conditions, ranging from normal to severe.
Under normal water supply conditions, residents may use a sprinkler to water their lawns , trees, food producing plants, and on certain days between 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Residents can water their assorted plants with drip irrigation, a watering can, or a hose equipped with a controllable nozzle at any time. They can also wash vehicles, boats, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots and various other exterior surfaces with a hose equipped with a nozzle, a pressure washer, or hand held containers. Swimming pools, spas, garden ponds, and decorative fountains can also be filled.

During severe water supply conditions, stage 4 restrictions, the Village would impose a ban on all outdoor water use for lawns, trees, and shrubs, except for hand watering and drip irrigation in vegetable gardens. It also restricts any use of water unless needed for health and safety reasons or legally required by a third party. Using essential water for livestock would be allowed.

Under stage 4 restrictions, staff proposed that the Village CAO or a staff member designated in writing be able to temporarily prohibit non-essential use of water for high-volume users in order to preserve water for “essential purposes.”

“For certainty, properties affected by the temporary prohibition will be allowed water use for essential purposes,” the bylaw reads.

The bylaw says before making that decision, staff must consider if an emergency is or will likely impact the Village’s ability to provide treated drinking water for essential uses and how much water the property uses each day.

McBride’s daily water usage has remained below the Village’s target daily usage level of 365 m3 since September 21st ” one day after the Village put water usage restrictions in place.