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OTTAWA — For the first time in more than a decade, the parched Ottawa region has entered level two drought conditions, says the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority.
The authority expects to make an official declaration following a conference call Friday involving members of the local water response team, Patrick Larson, the authority’s senior water resources technician, said Wednesday.
Once it does, residents in Ottawa and other communities along the Rideau River watershed will be asked to voluntarily reduce water use by 20 per cent, Larson said.
The voluntary restrictions would apply to all lands in the Rideau watershed, including the City of Ottawa, even though the city draws its water supply from the Ottawa River.
The 4,000-square-kilometre watershed — which extends from Upper Rideau Lake near Newboro to Rideau Falls in the City of Ottawa — has been in level one drought conditions for 29 of the past 41 weeks.
Under Ontario’s low water response plan, level one drought occurs whenever three-month or 18-month precipitation or stream flows fall to less than 80 per cent of normal. Residents in affected areas are asked to voluntarily reduce water use by 10 per cent.
Drought crosses the boundary from level one to level two if one-month precipitation or stream flows fall to between 40 and 60 per cent of normal. Level two drought, says Ontario’s plan “indicates a potentially serious problem.”
Level three drought — the most severe — occurs when 18-month, three-month or one-month precipitation levels are less than 40 per cent of average, and a region is already in confirmed level two conditions. In level three drought, mandatory water restrictions can be imposed.
While stream flows remain at the level one drought standard, Larson said the near absence of rain over the past month means the Ottawa area has already met the level two standard for precipitation. Meeting either standard is sufficient to trigger a level two declaration, he said.
Under the provincial plan, the local water response team — made up of local water users and municipal and provincial water managers — must meet to review the data before an official declaration can be made. But Larson said that’s little more than a formality, and the declaration will come either Friday or Monday.
According to Environment Canada, Ottawa has just endured the hottest and driest 12-month period in its history, with precipitation levels only two-thirds of normal over the past 12 months. The city has received just 19.6 mm of rain since June 8, barely 20 per cent of the normal level.
Since the provincial low water response plan was implemented in 2000, there has never been a level three declaration in the Rideau Valley area. According to the plan, level three “indicates the failure of the water supply to meet the demand, resulting in progressively more severe and widespread socioeconomic effects.”
Larson said the region actually entered into level three drought conditions in 2001 — the last time level two drought occurred — but there was no formal declaration.
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