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Fernie thinks about growing teeth to enforce water restrictions

Currently the city can only encourage residents to limit water usage in dry months
The City of Fernie is considering adopting enforcement options when it comes to water restrictions in the future. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

The City of Fernie is thinking about changes to its water policies, with city council receiving a report on issues with the current system at the September 26 meeting.

According to a staff report, staff are looking to close liability loopholes and financial concerns with the existing bylaws, and add the regulation and enforcement of outdoor water use by modelling proposed changes on the City of Cranbrook’s water use policies.

“An outdoor watering bylaw would move the city from a position of asking for water restriction compliance as is current practice, into a standard tiered-system where enforcement would be possible,” reads the staff report.

“Our goal is to establish the standard tools to help curb the excessive water use the City has experienced and identified by enabling formal restrictions and enforcement.”

Currently, when the city has concerns with the water supply (based on increased usage in dry months, or limited water flow at the source) it can only request that residents consider limiting their water usage, but the city has no formal way to enforce compliance.

Enforcing water restrictions is not the only focus of the proposed work on the water bylaws, with the staff report detailing issues with the illegal use of hydrants, damage to property shut-offs, water line leakage on private property, inability to enforce penalties for illegal use, and as stated, the city having no ‘teeth’ to enforce water restrictions.

According to the report, Fernie city staff would largely copy the City of Cranbrook’s existing ‘Waterworks and Outdoor Water Use Bylaw’ and revise it for use in Fernie.

Cranbrook’s bylaws include stages in water use regulation, ranging from restricting outdoor watering to particular days (at stage 1), to banning all outdoor water usage from watering to water parks to operating a car wash (at stage 4), depending on water levels at the city’s reservoir.

Work on the proposed changes has yet to occur, but council received the report for information purposes at the September 26 meeting. The staff report can be found online at the City of Fernie’s civic web portal, along with copies of the Cranbrook bylaws.

The changes to water usage bylaws would be brought forward to council in 2023.

READ MORE: Fernie changes sewer, water charges bylaw to include campgrounds
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