Advisories, bans in effect during dry spell
Northumberland County is caught in the midst of a scorching hot dry spell that has resulted in stunted crops, burned lawns, a fire ban across most of the area, a heat warning lasting until late Friday, plus advisories that everyone use 20% less water.
The drought conditions are aggravated by continuing high temperatures. And whenever the daytime temperatures of at least 31 degrees and 20 at night continue for even two days in a row and/or the humidex is 40C or more, it prompts the local health unit to issue a heat warning.
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit issued its fourth one of the summer late Monday afternoon.
“The message is the same as we’ve been saying during previous heat warnings…don’t overdo things, drink plenty of water and seek out cool places to reduce your risk of heat-related illness,” Carol Chan, emergency preparedness coordinator with the HKPR District Health Unit, stated in a media release.
People are also being asked to conserve more water with a Level 2 protocol being declared by the Ganaraska Region Water Resource Team on Aug. 5.
The area “water response team” which includes municipal, provincial and conservation authority representatives met and confirmed that the watersheds in West Northumberland had received just 52% of the normal rainfall during the last three months, Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority water technician Mike Smith said in an interview Monday.
As a result, there are low water conditions in area creeks including Cobourg, Gages, Midtown, Graham, Wilmot, Plainville and Harwood, as well as in the Ganaraska River and other small tributaries of Rice Lake and Lake Ontario.
The data collected by the GRCA on rainfall and declining groundwater levels has led to doubling the call for water conservation efforts requested of residents last month.
“The GRCA encourages water users to be aware of water consumption and conservation in an effort to reduce water use by 20%,” states its media releases. “These measures will help to avoid future water shortages in the coming months, and prevent negative impacts on aquatic life should below normal rainfall amounts continue.”
Individual municipalities such as Cobourg and Hamilton Township, as members of the water resource team, have issued their own responses to achieve this goal, Smith said.
Cobourg has a Water Supply By-Law covering the months of June, July and August telling residents when they can water their lawns, for example. Those located at even numbered properties can water from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on even numbered days and odd numbered properties on odd numbered days of the month (during the same time frames), states a town issued media release.
People are also being asked to reduce washing laundry, the length of showers and to repair any leaking plumbing.
Most Cobourg residents are on a town water supply while most Hamilton Township residents have private wells.
The water advisory issued by Hamilton Township addresses both those on its community water systems in Camborne and Creighton Heights, plus those on private wells in asking water users to reduce water use by 20%.
“If conditions persist, we may have to further elevate the (water advisory) level,” states a release from Mayor Mark Lovshin and the township’s administrator Arthur Anderson.
“Illegal water takings” and “advice about water supply shortages” should be reported to the GRCA at 905 372-8173, the release also states.
Smith notes that by eliminating “non-essential watering” like washing driveways and cars, as well as water conservation efforts including letting lawns go dormant, will mean less impact if the drought persists.
Still, some well owners may already be affected if there isn’t enough water for domestic use and may have to drill deeper, he said.
The Ministry of the Environment must issue permits for water takers like golf courses and water bottling companies and this regulates water use through drought situations, while farmers are only impacted if they draw more than 50,000 litres per day, like these businesses, Smith said.
At this time water trucks are still able to take water from Cobourg and Baltimore Creek and the Ganaraska River, he also said.
Not only browning lawns, but garden crops and those in the field are feeling the drought.
“We are starting to see some affect on them in pricing and supply,” Burnham Family Farm Market’s Anne Burnham said in an interview Monday.
Without sufficient rain, there is no local corn available as there normally would be,” she said.
“The grain crops are suffering,” her husband Paul Burnham agreed.
The tops of grain corn are starting to look like pineapples with the leaves curling up and bottom leaves going brown as the plants try to fill up the cobs.
“They are almost cannibalizing themselves,” Paul said.
Soybean plants in higher elevations are also in distress. Some grains and soybean plantings in lower areas are less affected, he added.
“Hay is another major issue.”
Some first cuts of hay were not as strong as usual and there may not even be second and third cuts to feed horses and cows in the area come the fall and winter.
Farmers will have to go a distance to get hay and it will be expensive, he predicted.
As to the apple crops, water is needed to get the size needed for market. With the proper moisture, this could have been a bumper year for many crops because of the sunshine and warmth, but without it, that won’t be the case, Burnham stressed.