Water Conservation Measures & FAQ

Current Water Conservation Measure Level:

Effective May 1, 2023, Stage 1 watering restrictions are in effect for all of North Cowichan.

Water use questions? 

Check out these Frequently Asked Questions!

Overview of Water Conservation Measures

Outdoor watering is not permitted between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Watering in the evening, nighttime or early morning reduces water wasted due to evaporation and reduces the peak water consumption by spreading out the use over a longer period of time. 

Effective Date

May 1 - Oct 31


Provincial Drought Code 3: Effective Date As required Provincial Drought Code 4: Effective Date As required Provincial Drought Code 5: Effective Date As required


Conventional Irrigation Systems and Sprinklers

Lawns, Vegetable Gardens, Fruit Trees, Ornamental Trees, Shrubs, Flower Gardens

2 hours/day

Even addresses – Wed & Sat

Odd Addresses – Thu & Sun

2 hours/day

Even addresses – Wed

Odd Addresses – Sun

Not permitted



Not permitted

New Lawns 2

2 hours/day

Any day

Requires Garden Irrigation Permit

1 hour/day

Any day

Requires Garden Irrigation Permit (permits must be obtained prior to Stage 2 restrictions)

1 hour/day

Any day

Requires Garden Irrigation Permit (permits must be obtained prior to Stage 2 restrictions)

Not permitted

Hand Watering, Micro/Drip Irrigation 3

Vegetable Gardens, Fruit Trees

4 hours/day

4 hours/day

2 hours/day

2 hours/day

 Ornamental Trees, Shrubs, Flower Gardens

2 hours/day

2 hours/day

1 hour/day

1 hour/day


2 hours/day

1 hour/day

Not permitted

Not permitted

New Lawns 2

2 hours/day

1 hour/day

1 hour/day

Require Garden Irrigation Permit (Permits must be obtained before Stage 2 restrictions)

Not permitted

Other Outdoor Water Use

Filling Pools & Hot Tubs

No Restrictions

No Restrictions

Not Permitted 4

Not Permitted 4

Washing Vehicles or Boats 

No Restrictions

No Restrictions

Permitted Under Certain Circumstances 5

Not Permitted

 Washing Driveways, Houses and Sidewalks

No Restrictions

Permitted Under Certain Circumstances 5

Permitted Under Certain Circumstances 5

Not Permitted

Sports Fields 6

Reduced Watering

Reduced Water, Conservation Measures

Reduced or Eliminated Water

Reduced or Eliminated Water

Private Wells, Agriculture 7

Regulated by Provincial Government (Not Supplied from Community Potable Water Systems)


1. The various restriction stages will be imposed in conjunction with the corresponding Provincial Drought Code. Jurisdictions may move to a given stage ahead of the corresponding Provincial Drought Code based on the state of the water system.

2. Irrigation of new lawns must follow the restrictions for established lawns. If additional watering is required, a permit must be obtained at which point water restrictions for New Lawns must be followed.

3. Micro/drip irrigation delivers water to the root zone of the plants and uses less than 90L/hr (20 imperial gallons/hr) at less than 25 psi. Weeper hoses are considered micro/drip irrigation, and are permitted; soaker hoses are not permitted. A weeper hose emits water through very small pores in the rubber; there is no water spray system emitted from the hose, resulting in less evaporation than a soaker hose. A soaker hose has holes that are large enough to emit water as a spray system, resulting in more evaporation than a micro/drip irrigation system or a weeper hose.

4. Pools filled prior to Stage 3 restrictions being implemented may be topped up to account for evaporation losses in order to avoid damage to pumps, etc. Municipal recreation facilities are exempt.

5. For residential properties, washing driveways, houses or sidewalks is only permitted during Stages 2 and 3 in preparation for applying paints, preservatives or for pouring concrete. Residential washing (i.e. not at a car wash facility which reuses water) of vehicles and boats is only permitted in Stage 3 in preparation of applying paints or preservatives.  Commercial enterprises which require water use to facilitate normal business activities may be exempted from some Stage 2 and 3 water restrictions if authorized by a motion from Council. These could include nurseries, turf farms or tree farms, car wash / detailers, power washing companies, window washing companies, etc.

6. School and Municipal playing fields are often sand-based and require regular watering. For this reason they are exempt from sprinkling regulations. Regardless, efforts are made to reduce water use and the irrigation timings are adjusted to reduce evaporation and avoid times of higher water consumption.

7. If necessary the Provincial Government can require the curtailment of water use for private wells and for agricultural purposes.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much water is saved by implementing water conservation measures?

Seasonal weather patterns in the spring and summer months drastically affect the demand on our Municipal water systems.  These environmental variables make it difficult to quantify the reduction in demand with absolute certainty. 

The following graph shows a comparison of daily averages in water consumption for 2013 (Annual stage 1 water conservation measures only) and 2015 (Stage 3 water conservation measures implemented). 

Click here to see the graph

Why do we need to implement water restrictions when our water supplies are healthy?

The Province monitors drought conditions and sets the Provincial Drought Level, which is a general indicator of the status of water in various regions of the Province. We have aligned the stages set out in our water restrictions with other jurisdictions in the CVRD and the Provincial Drought Level. We implement our restrictions in step with the Province’s Drought Level in order to have a consistent response to drought across the Region and in recognition of the fact that water is a finite resource that must be used judiciously. When conditions get very hot and dry for an extended period of time, flows in rivers can drop to very low levels; sometimes below environmental thresholds. Even when a water supply is from an aquifer, those supplies can reduce flows in rivers to varying degrees when water is pumped from the aquifer. For that reason efforts are made to reduce water consumption across the Region in order to ensure sufficient flow in rivers and streams.

What do the various Provincial Drought Levels mean?

DNC Water Restrictions Stage

Provincial Drought Level


General Response Measures

More Specific Response Measures


No Restrictions, Stage 1


There is sufficient water to meet socio economic and ecosystem needs


Emphasis is on preparedness, taking proactive actions in advance of potential droughts to increase readiness of water users and communities where drought may occur.

DNC Stage 1 restrictions implemented regardless of Provincial Drought Level.


Adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem values are rare


Emphasis is on stewardship, voluntary conservation through education, communication and planning, and investigating unauthorized water uses.


Adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem values are unlikely

Conservation. Local water restrictions where appropriate.

Emphasis continues to be on voluntary conservation and restricting or curtailing unauthorized use. Water suppliers may consider invoking water restrictions where appropriate. If serious impacts are occurring in an area, the provincial government may begin considering regulatory action.

Stage 2


Adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem values are possible

Conservation. Local water restrictions likely.

All unauthorized use should be curtailed. Water suppliers are much more likely to impose watering restrictions, and data collection for regulatory action by the provincial government may start to occur.


Stage 3


Adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem alues are likely

Conservation and local water restrictions. Regulatory action possible.

Voluntary measures and increasing use of watering restrictions will continue and may be augmented by regulatory action by the provincial government where necessary to reduce water user conflicts or protect the environment.


Stage 4


Adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem values are almost certain

Conservation and local water restrictions. Regulatory action likely. Possible emergency response.

All efforts should be made to conserve water and protect critical environmental flows.



Why are school and municipal playing fields exempt from the regulation?

Recognizing that severe drought conditions exist across Vancouver Island, the Municipality has turned off irrigation on most sports fields, small green space parks and boulevard plantings.

The Municipality will continue to irrigate some planted areas under the Stage 2 water conservation guidelines, adhering to minimum water usage wherever possible. Some critical fields will continue to be watered, which includes during the day for short periods of time to protect the playing surface from significant and costly damage (see below).

Why is the Municipality still watering the sand-based sports fields at Sherman Road, Evans Park and the Properties?

Sand-based fields are designed to drain very well so that the fields continue to be usable in the wet weather during the fall/winter months.  Unfortunately, they are not as practical during dry weather in the summer months. They require less irrigation per watering but need watering more frequently because the sand holds less moisture. The moisture needs of sand-based turf is about the same as that in native soil—it's just that sand doesn't hold nearly as much available moisture as does a native loam or clay soil. Consequently, we irrigate sands much more frequently, but with less irrigation output per watering event. Sand-based fields need to be watered in the afternoon or they will burn off. When sand fields burn they do not go dormant like a typical residential lawn, but actually die, resulting in the expensive loss of recreational infrastructure.

These areas are also too large to be effectively irrigated within the allowed sprinkling times as not all of the irrigation zones can be operated simultaneously. Rain gauges are installed at our sports field complexes and prevent irrigation from working when sufficient water is already at an acceptable level.

What steps has the Municipality taken to conserve water during these excessively dry conditions?

The Municipality strives to be efficient and environmentally responsible in water use. Some of the steps taken include:

  • gator watering bag system implemented to water non-irrigated and irrigated trees;
  • hanging baskets retrofitted with drip irrigation resulting in reduced watering by up to 94% from hand watering;
  • xeriscaping strategies have already commenced on landscaped public areas; and
  • rain gauges installed in larger sports fields which prevent the irrigation system from activat­ing when sufficient water is present.

What about gardens, flower beds, and trees?

Residents can use conventional irrigation systems or sprinklers to water trees, shrubs, flowers or vegetables for a maximum of 2 hours anytime between 7:00pm – 9:00am during Stage 1 and 2 (please check above table for which days of the week your address is permitted to water). Hand watering or a micro/drip irrigation system can be used to water trees, shrubs, flowers or vegetables on any day of the week for 4 hours a day during Stages 1 and 2 or 2 hours a day during Stages 3 and 4.

What about my car or boat -- can I wash them?

Vehicles and boats can be washed at any time during Stage 1 and 2.  To prevent the unnecessary wasting of water boats and cars must be washed with a hose equipped with a spring-loaded nozzle and a bucket filled with water. Washing is not permitted during Stage 3 or 4 water conservation measures. 

What about watering new lawns and landscaping?

New lawns should be planted in the spring to avoid excessive use of artificial irrigation during the drier summer months when water is limited.  Better yet, plants native to the region could be incorporated into your landscape design to avoid artificial irrigation altogether.  Please see our Native Plants page for more information. 

New lawns require a Garden Irrigation Permit in order to be exempt from certain Stage 1 water conservation measures. Garden Irrigation Permits are issued at the discretion of the Municipal Engineer and can be obtained from the Engineering Department at the Municipal Hall.  Garden Irrigation Permits will be issued for 21 days where new sod has been planted and 49 days where the lawn will be grown from seed.  Garden Irrigation Permits will not be issued during Stage 2, 3 or 4 water conservation measures in order to encourage residents to plant new lawns in the spring when conditions are more suitable for germination and water demand is lower.

Do these restrictions apply to soaker hoses or in-ground sprinkler systems?  

Yes.  The water conservation measures apply to all sprinkling systems.

What about micro irrigation, drip irrigation systems and weeper hoses?

Only a system using less than 20 gallons per hour which operates at less than 25 psi to deliver water to the root zone of the plant material is considered to be Micro irrigation or Drip irrigation. Weeper hoses are considered micro/drip irrigation but soaker hoses are not.  A soaker hose has holes emitting water at all angles around the hose which operate at full pressure resulting in more evaporation.  A weeper hose emits water through pores in the rubber and does not spray into the air resulting in better water efficiency.  A picture of a weeper hose is shown below.

Water conservation measures for these methods of irrigation are less stringent as they reduce evaporation losses by delivering the water directly to where the plants need them as well as having significantly lower flow ratings than other methods of irrigation.

Why 7:00pm-9:00am?

Watering during the morning and evening reduces the amount of evaporation that occurs from the lawns, sprinklers and soil.

Can I wash my house or other outdoor surfaces?

Under Stage 1 water conservation measures outdoor surfaces including houses can be washed.  Under Stage 2 and 3 conservation measures this is prohibited unless it is for the purposes of applying paint or preservative or in preparation for pouring concrete. During Stage 4 watering restrictions washing houses or other outdoor surfaces is not permitted.

If I pay my taxes why can’t I water my lawn whenever I want?

Municipal water rates or fees range from $146 to $326 per year per household, depending on whether you live in Chemainus, Crofton or the South End.  Increased demands in water consumption result in increased costs for pumping and treating water and would eventually result in the need  to upgrade infrastructure which could increase rates substantially.  Additionally, our municipal water sources are not infinite; using less water benefits other system users and the environment that these sources support.

If I live in a strata how do I determine my watering day?  

The watering day is dependent on the unit number of the strata and not the address.

Can my kids still play in the sprinkler?

Yes, during Stage 1 and Stage 2. These stages allow recreational use of sprinkling systems but please ensure the water is shut off when they are done playing.  Stage 3 and Stage 4 water restrictions include a complete ban of converntional sprinklers – this includes recreational use.

If there is a total sprinkling ban, will my lawn die?

Your lawn will naturally go dormant and turn brown during a hot, dry spell. A good rainfall or cooler weather will help your lawn revive quickly. Watering lawns sparingly or not at all during the summer months saves one household up to 17,000 litres.

I can't meet the alternate day and time requirements of the bylaw. What should I do?

The bylaw restrictions must be met; automated sprinkler systems that cannot be programmed to comply with the restrictions will have to be manually operated.

Does my fertilizer-pesticide-herbicide application require watering outside my designated watering time?

It is expected that the watering restrictions will be followed.  Lawn fertilization is most effective when applied in fall, early spring and late spring.  Fertilizer is more likely to harm your lawn than help it during a period of drought.

I am not connected to the municipal water supply. I use a private well or water source for lawn watering. Does the bylaw apply to me?

Water conservation measures do not apply to those homes on private wells or water sources. However, property owners are encouraged to be good environmental stewards and follow the bylaw requirements. Aquifers are, for the most part, interconnected with river flows or neighboring properties water supplies therefore the more everyone can reduce their water usage the better.   

What is considered wasting water?

Wasting water includes allowing water to run excessively or unnecessarily to waste. Some examples include;

  • Allowing irrigated water to puddle or run off a lawn into the storm drain system
  • Allowing irrigation water to be sprayed onto a paved surface such as sidewalks, driveways, roadways, curbs, or gutters
  • Washing of vehicles with a hose not equipped with spring-loaded nozzle or shut off valve at the discharge end of the hose.

Why are there exemptions for some commercial enterprises?

Sprinkling regulations are meant to reduce water use in ways that do not cause serious economic hardship. Those users requiring water as part of a commercial operation are expected to conserve as much water as possible without resulting in a loss of business.

My neighbour is not using water in accordance with the Waterworks Bylaw. How do I report this offence?

Reports can be made to the Municipality by phone at (250) 746-3100, by e-mail to engineering@northcowichan.ca or in-person to the Engineering Department in the lower level of the Municipal Hall.  Please record the address and street that the violation has occurred at, as well as the time and type of violation.   

How does the Municipality of North Cowichan enforce the Waterworks Bylaw?

Reports of a violation are followed up by making contact with the homeowner and providing them with the details of the violation along with water conservation educational materials.  If non-compliance continues, the issue will be passed on to the Bylaw Compliance Officer.