Below normal rainfall observed over the past four months is continuing to bring very dry conditions to most of southern Ontario, including Kawartha Conservation’s watershed. As a result, a Kawartha Water Response Team has been established, and has upgraded the Low Water Condition levels within its watershed jurisdiction.
The Water Response Team is coordinated by Kawartha Conservation, and includes local municipal, agriculture, recreation, NGO, and government representatives. The Team met on August 12th at Kawartha Conservation’s Administration Office to discuss the watershed’s status and next steps to respond to the drought situation. Moving forward, the Team will continue to encourage voluntary water conservation practices through education and public awareness initiatives.
Dave Pridham, Manager, Technical and Stewardship Services at Kawartha Conservation was elected as Chair of the Water Response Team. “This year’s drought is one of the most severe events observed over the past 25-30 years, “says Pridham. “Drought conditions are causing many severe impacts on businesses, the environment and our local communities. Low water levels in local rivers and streams are accompanied by deteriorated water quality, which puts stress on aquatic ecosystems. Declining groundwater levels can cause private water wells to become dry. Agriculture in particular is being significantly affected with lower crop yields and producers having to feed their livestock with hay bales normally held for winter feed”.
According to the precipitation data collected at 12 monitoring locations, rainfall ranging from 23- 66% of the normal average has fallen across the watershed over the past three months. The worst drought conditions are being seen in the southern portion of the watershed, specifically the Township of Scugog. The water levels currently seen on Lake Scugog are the lowest in the last 25 years for this time of year. Very low inflow from local tributaries and extensive evaporation are two major causes of rapidly declining levels. Dry residential wells have been reported within the Township of Scugog. As the Trent Severn Waterway reports, the precipitation gauge in Ceasarea has recorded 88 mm of rainfall over the May-July period, which is 23% of the long term 3 month average value for this location. The weather monitoring station in Blackstock reported only 35% of the average precipitation for the same period.
Based on this data and other supporting information, the Water Response Team has upgraded the Low Water Condition Level to Level 2 for the following member municipalities: City of Kawartha Lakes, Township of Brock, Municipality of Clarington, Municipality of Trent Lakes, and Township of Cavan Monaghan (see map below).
Due to more severe drought conditions, a Low Water Condition Level 3 has been declared for the portions of the Township of Scugog falling within Kawartha Conservation’s watershed (see map below).
The Ontario Low Water Response Program guidelines indicate that a watershed enter into a Level 2 Low Water Condition when precipitation levels have fallen below 60% of the normal amount over the past three months. Precipitation indicators below 40% indicate a Level 3 Low Water Response condition. The rainfall we’ve seen over the past week is insufficient to change these Low Water designations.
Under the current adverse negative drought conditions, the Kawartha Water Response Team encourages all water users to conserve water by reducing non-essential uses, both at home and at work, to help achieve a minimum 20% reduction in overall water use. There are a number of ways that residents can do their part to contribute to conserving water, including:
• Compliance with Regional/Municipal outdoor water use by-laws
• Refraining from non-essential water use in and around your home such as washing your car and watering your lawn
• Making use of rain barrels and other water storage
• Withdraw water more slowly over a longer period of time (e.g. reduce pumping rate and time of day)
• Schedule surface water withdrawals from small tributaries having low flows with other water takers to ensure that no great amount is withdrawn at the same time.