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Water diversion allows Tofino to ease restrictions

Municipal crews installed a prototype bypass valve that tapped creeks with high flows to fill its reservoir system
View of Meares Island from Tofino. The community draws its water from four creeks on the island. TIMES COLONIST

Tofino has eased its water restrictions and averted a potential state of emergency after municipal crews installed a prototype bypass valve that helped to fill its reservoir system.

The resort community had been at Stage 3 water restrictions, asking residents, hotels and other businesses to significantly cut back on water use, since July. It had warned it could get to Stage 4, where some businesses would have to close and use of water would be severely restricted — ­possibly even trucked in, as was the case in 2006.

In an attempt to avoid that, the district said, Tofino’s public works crews engineered a bypass valve to divert higher-performing creek flows on nearby Meares Island to diminishing reservoirs.

Tofino’s water comes from four creeks on Meares. The water is pumped into ­reservoirs and then piped under the ocean to Tofino’s reservoir and distribution system.

Crews worked through the Labour Day long weekend to install and test the prototype, which began producing results quickly, said the district.

Crews continued to monitor and adjust the valves the following week, as reservoirs began to replenish.

“This fix, in combination with renewed conservation efforts, additional rainfall, and a decrease in community consumption, de-escalated the water situation to a point where Stage 4 trigger points were no longer imminent,” the district said in a statement.

The district moved to Stage 2 on ­Thursday.

Tofino has been struggling with water during a prolonged drought that started in the spring.

After the district raised the alarm, ­residents, businesses and visitors were able to reduce peak daily water use by more than 20%, and sustained those levels from mid-July to September.

The area has received 75% less rainfall than in an average summer.

Last week, reservoirs for the community were down to the lowest levels of the year and the town was holding on through strict water restrictions.

Typically, the resort community receives 424 millimetres of rain from May to September, but this year, less than 100 mm had fallen through last week.

Over the past month, the community has reduced water consumption from 2,400 cubic metres a day to about 1,800.

Stage 3 restrictions prohibited all outdoor use of water, including outdoor showers, pool or hot tub fill-ups and watering of lawns and garden.

Short-term rental operators and resorts and hotels were required to remove ­unnecessary linens such as bathrobes and extra towels, remove bathtub stoppers to discourage tub use, encourage guests to bring their own bedding and towels, provide disposable cutlery and provide bottled water.

Moving into the fall season, district staff and council say they will continue to keep Tofino’s water situation “top of mind.”

A new water-conservation roundtable made up of representatives from business and residents is being established to provide recommendations to council on water-related matters.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Coun. Sarah Sloman said she intends to bring forward a motion on use of rainwater and recycled water in buildings.

Tofino’s Water Master Plan, designed to improve the overall water system and capacity, is expected to be presented to the pubic in December.

The current Stage 2 water restrictions include a prohibition on outdoor watering of lawns, gardens, trees and landscaped areas except for the watering of food plants by hand-held hose with an automatic shut-off mechanism or hand-held canister. Watering is also limited to 6-9 a.m. and 7-10 p.m. on certain days of the week.

Filling or refilling of hot tubs is prohibited.

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