Files from James Wood

COMOX VALLEY, B.C. – For the first time ever, Stage 4 water restrictions are being placed across the Comox Valley.

This afternoon, the Comox Valley Water Committee voted unanimously in favour of implementing Stage 4 restrictions from April 12th to 22nd, during the emergency repair of a water main under the Puntledge River.

Stage 4 prohibits all forms of watering and sprinkling, filling and adding water to private pools, hot tubs, garden ponds, and decorative fountains, washing boats and vehicles, and watering lawns.

Water can only be used for drinking, personal hygiene, and food preparation.

The reason behind the decision is to accommodate an emergency water line repair in the CVRD water system.

The line is one of the primary and largest transmission mains for the Valley’s water system, and during the repairs, the system in East Courtenay and Comox will be relying solely on a smaller secondary line.

“While we’re in that repair phase, we’ll be cutting into our large transmission pipe and will be using our backup in the meantime to feed the Comox Valley,” CVRD manager of water services Mike Herschmiller told the MyComoxValleyNow.com newsroom, following the vote.

Herschmiller reiterated that this is the first time the CVRD has implemented Stage 4 restrictions.

“It is due to the need, due to the construction,” he added.

Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells spoke about the importance of the restrictions.

“Absolutely it’s necessary because we have a hole in the pipe,” Wells said. “And the longer we leave it, that hole will get larger, and as we move into the summer months it’s going to be that much more of an impact, especially if we look at the level of the lake right now. We want to make sure that this gets fixed as soon as possible.”

Wells said this is “absolutely an emergency situation.”

“We have a critical failure in one of our pipes, that’s the main pipe feeding water to our reservoirs and until that gets repaired, we’re going to be stuck in the situation.”

It comes down to a 10-day pinch in terms of water usage for Comox Valley residents, Wells added.

“What we are telling people to do is, don’t water your lawns, don’t use water if you don’t have to, no filling your hot tubs, your swimming pools, because we really need to keep our water levels as high as possible for fire suppression,” Wells noted.

Given that the Comox Valley is coming off its driest March on record, Walls said it’s vital for firefighters to have the water flows they need to battle fires and keep themselves safe, as well.

According to the staff summary for the committee, the secondary line is unable to handle peak water volumes for the entire system, which will make the temporary restrictions necessary.

“By requiring users to follow Stage 4 restriction guidelines, it is expected that water use can be reduced enough to allow the emergency repair to be conducted on the water main, while maintaining water flows to meet the needs for firefighting and domestic water use,” read part of the staff summary.

All the parts and pieces for the repair have been acquired, according to the staff report, and all the necessary tree clearing has been finished, before nesting season, to avoid delays due to nesting birds.

Work will include isolating, draining, cutting, welding and assembling the valves and spool pieces to reinstate the water main.

There was a delay in fabrication and delivery of valves, which pushed repairs of the leak to mid-April during times of higher consumption.

Herschmiller hopes to get levels down to winter-based flows, while the restriction is in place and hopes the public is on board to help achieve that goal.

“We request the public reduce consumption in any way possible; that’s any unnecessary water use,” he said. “It affects everyone and we’re trying to reduce as much as we can. So that would be consumption for brushing your teeth, for flushing your toilets, washing yourselves, that’s what people are able to do. We want to discourage any unnecessary water uses.”

The plan is to lift the restrictions before or on April 23rd.