Kingston ON – Cataraqui Conservation with their Low Water Response Team (LWRT) has confirmed the need to elevate the low water condition from Level 1 to Level 2 today for the entire Cataraqui Watershed due a return to lower than normal rate of rainfall over the past month and a half.
While there was brief improvement in July as consistent rainfall allowed the LWRT to downgrade to a Level 1, a significantly drier August and first half of September have reinforced the need to move back up to a Level 2.
“At the end of August regional precipitation was 50 per cent of normal and this has worsened for the first half of September with only 33 per cent of normal levels occurring,” explained Cataraqui Conservation Watershed Planning Coordinator, Holly Evans.
“Stream flows also continue to decline following a period of recovery in July. As summer changes to fall, it is hoped that typical fall rains will improve conditions, but the long-range forecast is for warmer and drier weather.”
Residents on lakes may have noticed lower water levels because of the dry conditions – some lakes with water control structures will be further lowered over the next month to reach fall target levels in preparation for winter and to accommodate trout spawning on some lakes.
At this time, Cataraqui Conservation Operations staff has also begun seasonal water level adjustments on managed lakes within the Cataraqui Region. Every fall, following the summer recreation season, water levels on managed lakes (a lake with a water control structure such as a dam) are drawn down by Cataraqui Conservation staff to create more capacity for fall rains, runoff from spring snow melt and rainfall. It’s also done to try and stabilize water levels prior to winter freeze-up to promote a stable ice surface throughout the winter.
The Rideau Canal is also low and as of September 13, 2021, Parks Canada has identified reduced draft from Newboro to Kingston Mills. All these conditions have precipitated the need for the move to Level 2 despite the recent event which raised the lake levels back to minimum navigable draft requirements. Parks Canada staff are closely monitoring the water levels throughout the Canal system inside the Cataraqui watershed. Following the navigation closure Parks Canada Operations will commence drawing down the lakes to their fall and winter levels.
Low water conditions are based upon precipitation and stream flow indicators and a Level 2 low water confirmation is determined by Cataraqui Conservation and the Cataraqui Region Low Water Response Team as part of the Ontario Low Water Response Program.
A Level 2 low water condition is the second of three levels and reflects a potentially serious water supply problem if current precipitation and stream flows trends persist. Level 1 ‘Minor’ suggests a potential water supply problem and Level 3 ‘Severe’ indicates a failure of the water supply to meet demand.
Residents on groundwater systems or that draw from inland lakes or streams are asked to voluntarily conserve water by following water conservation practices:
- Reduce non-essential water uses.
- Limiting outside watering of plants and lawns. If you must water your lawn, early morning or later evening watering reduces evaporation.
- Note that lawns naturally become dormant during times of low water and will recover quickly. Lawns that have turned brown from the drought are not “dead”, the grass has just gone dormant from lack of water. When rainfall returns, the grass will come out of dormancy and perk back up.
- Limit washing vehicles, driveways, and sidewalks. Use a pail of soapy water to wash your car and rinse off quickly with a hose.
- Repair leaky plumbing or fixtures to help curtail water wastage.
If a water well supply becomes low or dry, well owners are encouraged to review the Ontario Government’s “Managing your well in times of drought publication (https://www.ontario.ca/page/managing-your-water-well-times-water-shortage), and contact a local licensed water well contractor (https://www.ontario.ca/page/find-licenced-well-contractors) to assess the well and provide recommended solutions.
Municipalities may invoke water use bylaws and residents should find out what bylaws are in effect in their municipalities regarding water use as well as outdoor fires.
To help Cataraqui Conservation staff track the spread and seriousness of low water impacts on the region, we are asking for help from the public in collecting this information. If residents have a low water concern, please let us know by filling in this quick online form:
Cataraqui Conservation will continue to monitor water levels and will provide updates as conditions change.