Low Water Response Program

Weather is the principal factor causing low water conditions. The three main climate variables are solar radiation, temperature, and precipitation. These low water causing weather phenomenon combine with local biological, physical and human characteristics to define the stress locations of the low water conditions within a Otonabee Region watershed. Local biological, physical and human characteristics include physiography (size and shape of the watershed, elevation, slope and aspect), geology (drainage features, parent rock types), soils(soil depth, soil type, soil infiltration capacity, soil erosiveness, etc.) land-use  (land use types, population characteristics), watershed hydrology (groundwater and surface water quality and quantity), and finally socio-economic features (water use and needs, and water use problems).

All the above-noted factors are routinely monitored and analyzed by technically and scientifically trained staff of Otonabee Conservation in an effort to detect early onset of low water conditions.  There are three levels of low water conditions (Levels One, Two and Three) that are based on thresholds linked to precipitation records and stream flow monitoring data, together with watershed observations. Level One provides the first indication of potential water supply problems. Level Two indicates a more serious problem. Level Three is the most serious stage and means that water supply is unable to meet local demands

Subsequent to detecting a low water condition occurrence, the local Water Response Team (WRT) is notified. In all, the local Water Response Team has more than 20 members, including representatives of federal, provincial and municipal (i.e., conservation authority) resource management agencies, as well as representatives from important local water user and interest groups, such as agricultural, tourism& recreation, First Nations and municipal government and water supply companies.

At each level, the WRT has an import role to play in helping to stop the low watershed conditions from escalating. Namely, this is done through communication with and education of the water users in the affected area(s).

Level 1

Level One

  • put the local situation into context by communicating to the watershed community the precipitation and stream flow values over a period of time
  • advise the different water use sectors of the need to conserve water by 10%
  • offer suggestions on how the sectors may achieve this reduction target whether their water supply is municipal or a private system.

Level 2

Level Two

  • put the local situation into context by communicating to the watershed community the precipitation and stream flow values over a period of time
  • communicate a strong message to private water users requesting them to reduce water consumption by a further 10% (20% in total).
  • offer specific suggestions on how each user group may achieve this reduction whether their water supply is municipal or a private system.
  • using municipal water conservation by-laws, invoke restrictions on non-essential water use for watershed residents using municipal water systems, and communicate this stronger conservation message with the advertisement of local water restrictions
  • gather information and data about the impacts of low water conditions on the agricultural sector, fisheries, tourism & recreation,  and municipal government as well as gather anecdotal information about surface water and groundwater conditions form throughout the watershed region

Level 3

Level Three

  • clearly document the conservation and reduction efforts taken through Level One and Two
  • demonstrate that the majority of the water users have participated in these efforts (including by law restrictions by municipalities on non-essential uses).
  • document any significant social, environmental and economic impacts arising from current low water conditions
  • provide recommendations on priorities for water use restrictions and other possible reduction activities within the watershed

In all, the Low Water Response Program is an effective way to ensure that the water users of the Region (residents, agriculture, industry, tourism & recreation, etc.) are informed whenever low water conditions occur, and that their needs and concerns are addressed with respect to these conditions.