A combination of below-average precipitation this year with hot summer temperatures has resulted in water levels in local streams dropping well below normal. As a result, Conservation Halton is escalating from a Level I to a Level II Low Water Condition for its watershed, based on criteria set out in the Ontario Low Water Response guidelines.
Conservation Halton’s data for the month of July indicates that like much of south central Ontario, the Halton watershed has received below-average precipitation and an unusually high number of very warm days. The watershed received an average of 43 mm of rain, which is only 54 per cent of the normal July average of 79 mm. The three-month total for May to July was approximately 105 mm or 45 per cent of normal for this time of year, and there have been 24 days where temperatures surpassed 30°C during this period of time (compared to an average of six days for the preceding three years). Furthermore, current stream flow data indicates that many of our watercourses are in a Level II Low Water Condition, with monthly July flows averaging 35 per cent of the lowest average summer monthly flow.
A Level II Low Water Condition is the second level of an escalating scale of low water conditions. Under the Level II Low Water Condition, water users in the Conservation Halton watershed are strongly encouraged to voluntarily conserve water with the aim of reducing overall consumption by a further 10 per cent, to a new target total reduction of 20 per cent. Conservation Halton had previously issued a Level I Low Water Condition on July 8, 2016.
The last time Conservation Halton declared a Level II Low Water Condition for its watershed was August 20, 2007. This Level II Low Water Condition was maintained until January 24, 2008 when it was reduced to Level I, then returned to normal conditions on February 6, 2008.
“The continued hot and dry weather conditions has resulted in the streams in the Halton watershed being lower than their typical levels for this time of the year and that is why we have moved to a Level II Low Water Condition,” said Conservation Halton Manager of Watershed Engineering Services, Janelle Weppler. “Given the situation, our team will maintain our increased level of monitoring and regular discussions with our Low Water Response Team. We encourage everyone to use water wisely.”
Major water users, such as golf courses, aggregate extractors, farm irrigators and others are asked to implement or continue their water conservation programs to reach the 20 per cent reduction target. Rural water users can lower the demand on the watercourses and aquifers by pumping water at a lower rate, storing it in ponds or by staggering their pumping times in conjunction with neighbours to lower peak demand. A 20 per cent voluntary reduction will help to provide water supplies for essential use and to sustain aquatic ecosystems.
Water users which rely on municipal sources are reminded to follow any water conservation measures as prescribed by Halton Region or their local municipality.
The Halton watershed is comprised of the Bronte, Grindstone, and Sixteen Mile Creek watersheds, which encompass portions of Puslinch, Hamilton, Halton Hills, Milton, Mississauga, Burlington and Oakville, as well as a number of smaller watersheds located in Burlington and Oakville.
More about Low Water Status
Conservation Halton, in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), monitors local water level and precipitation amounts. In the event of water shortages or a drought, CH works closely with local water users and other government agencies to coordinate water conservation efforts and try to reduce demand.
Under the Province’s Ontario Low Water Response strategy, local water users and managers establish Water Response Teams (WRT) in areas experiencing low water conditions so the local community can carry out actions to reduce and better manage water use. The Low Water Response Team, coordinated by Conservation Halton in its watershed, consists of representatives from the Province, Municipalities, Conservation Authorities, local water users and industry groups. There are four levels of Low Water Conditions:
- Normal – Normal Conditions are within normal limits.
- Level I – First indication of potential water supply problems, primarily a warning level – key focus is on voluntary conservation of water
- Level II – Indicates a potentially serious problem – conservation of water is extended to restrictions on non-essential uses
- Level III – Indicates a failure of the water supply to meet demand – key focus is on conservation, regulation and enforcement of non-essential uses