Do watering bylaws work? A UW study weighs in
Published Thursday, August 20, 2020 9:43PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, August 20, 2020 9:59PM EDT
KITCHENER -- The Region of Waterloo enacts a bylaw every summer, restricting outdoor watering.
But according to a new study out of the University of Waterloo, those measures aren’t always effective.
Residents are permitted to water their lawn one day a week between May 31 and September 30.
For gardeners like Terry Numan, they are only allowed to water their plants every other day.
“Some plants do wilt a bit,” he says. “They’re just trying to conserve themselves.”
When picking plants he chooses those that will thrive with little to no watering.
But sometimes that’s still not enough.
“When it’s like this summer, that was a little long for some of them,” he says.
Steve Gombos, the Manager of Water Efficiency for the Region of Waterloo, says the water bylaw is an important part of conservation efforts.
“Keep that maximum demand down and it eases that strain on our water system,” he says.
But are those bylaws effective?
According to a new study from the University of Waterloo, they do little to recuse summer water usage.
Sara Finley, the lead researcher, looked at more than a decade of data from 10 mid-sized Canadian cities who limit water usage. Those number were then compared to five cities that don’t have conservation bylaws.
“It’s comparatively minor, the amount of overall reduction in water use,” she says.
The study found restrictions that range from 6-42 hours of watering a week showed bylaws were only effective during hot and dry spells.
But bylaws do help to control the timing the demand for water.
“Preventing people from all watering on Saturdays or preventing people from rushing to water their gardens during a hot, dry period,” she explains.
Finley adds that strict rules may help people make the connection that our water supply is limited.
“Their act of conservation, their act of following the rules, watering when they’re supposed to really does help the city to stay sustainable.”
The region says that’s one of the reasons residents should be following the bylaw.
“That makes it dangerous, that we can’t replenish the supply fast enough and there are fires, or any kid of emergencies where we need more water,” says Gombos.
Findley also says that habits around outdoor water use are changing, with many people making an effort to conserve water.