Water Conservation Measures & FAQ

Current Water Conservation Measure Level:

Stage 1 watering restrictions are in place at this time. (Stage 1 is in effect from May 1 to October 31 annually. Throughout the drier summer months, the Municipality may choose to increase the water conservation measures, if required.)

Please note: North Cowichan is considering updates to its Waterworks Bylaw in order to address water conservation. For background details, see the May 4 council meeting agenda.

Water use questions? 

Check out these Frequently Asked Questions!

Overview of Water Conservation Measures



Effective Date

May 1 to

October 31

 As required As required
Sprinkling Times

7:00am - 9:00am




7:00pm - 9:00pm

7:00am - 9:00am




7:00pm - 9:00pm









Not Permitted -

Sprinkling Ban  

Even Numbered Houses Even days


 & Saturday 

Odd Numbered Houses  Odd days


& Sunday

Watering new lawn

Same as above

unless Garden Irrigation


is obtained.



No permits issued

Hand watering trees, shrubs and gardens

(hose with spring-loaded nozzle or a bucket) 

Hand water between 7:00am - 9:00am OR 7:00pm - 9:00pm.

2 hours per day maximum - Any day


Micro/ Drip irrigation [1]

 Anytime - maximum 4 hours per day

Filling pools and

hot tubs 

Anytime Anytime Not Permitted[2]

Washing vehicles

or boats 

Anytime Anytime Not Permitted [3]

 Washing driveways, houses and sidewalks

Anytime Not Permitted [3] Not Permitted [3]

[1] Micro irrigation or drip irrigation delivers water to the root zone of the plants and uses less than 20 gallons per hour at less than 25 psi. This includes weeper hoses but does not include soaker hoses.

[2] Pools filled before stage 3 water use restrictions were implemented may be topped up to account for evaporation losses in order to avoid damage to pumps etc.

[3] Washing driveways, houses or sidewalks is only permitted during stage 2 and 3 for preparation of applying paints, preservatives or for pouring concrete

Exemptions - Water Restrictions

    • Nurseries, turf farms or tree farms
    • School and Municipal playing fields
    • Garden Irrigation Permit holders (obtained from the Engineering Department - for use only during Stage 1 Water Use Restrictions)
    • Car dealerships
    • Other commercial enterprises which require water use to facilitate normal business activities (ex. power washing companies, window washing companies etc.)

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 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 a bucket, spring-loaded spray nozzle or micro/drip irrigation to water trees, shrubs, flowers or vegetables on any day of the week during stage 1, 2 and 3. Watering must take place between 7-9 a.m. or 7-9 p.m. (Maximum 2 hours per day) in order to reduce evaporation and increase watering efficiency.

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 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 and 3 water conservation measures in order to encourage residents to plant new lawns in the spring when water is more plentiful.

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.  For the reasons stated above these types of systems are allowed to operate at any time of day for a maximum of 4 hours per day during water restriction stages 1, 2 and 3.

Why 7:00am-9:00am and 7:00pm-9:00pm?

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.

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 for the upgrading of 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 address of the strata and not the unit number.

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 is a complete watering ban – 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.  If you do plan to fertilize your lawn during the summer months it is best to wait for the forecast to call for steady light rain.

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 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.  Violations of Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 Water Conservation Measures have ticketing provisions of $100, $200 and $300; respectively.