The owner of a window cleaning service is facing a crisis Friday, April 12 when Stage 4 water restrictions come into effect for the Comox Valley Water System. The restrictions last until April 22 during an emergency water pipe repair.
Spring months provide the prime source of income for Dwayne Robertson, who owns Shine-Eze Window Care. The CVRD requires him to stockpile water before Friday. During the restrictions, he is not allowed to use any water source in Comox or Courtenay.
“I can still squeegee window clean, I just can’t use any of my water-supplied tools,” said Robertson, who needs to schedule more than 100 customers.
Stage 4 restrictions are aimed at reducing overall impact to the district’s water system, CAO Russell Dyson said, noting exemptions in the bylaw exist to allow the district to continue with essential use of water during the emergency pipe repair.
“Businesses that do not use water for essential services — food prep, drinking, hygiene, or for health and safety reasons — must comply with these restrictions,” Dyson said.
In a Facebook post, Angela Gilbert takes issue with the seemingly “arbitrary nature of which small businesses and individuals will suffer serious financial impact.” She says the pipe has been broken since December, but she only found out Monday, April 8 that she could not run her dog grooming business because it’s not an essential service. Hairdressers, she added, found out Tuesday they can only use water for washing, not for coloring or for bleaching.
Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells, who chairs the CVRD water committee, said the pipe repair would have been completed by now, but the plant undertaking the manufacturing had suffered a tragedy.
Robertson understands the need to conserve water, but does not understand how a window cleaning company can be singled out as a culprit in the overuse of water. He claims restaurants, on average, use 6,000 gallons of water a day (based on a Google search) but are allowed to operate during the restrictions. He said his seven-person operation tends to use about 960 gallons.
“If a restaurant’s allowed to use six times the amount of water that I use in a day, why are they allowed (to operate as normal)?” Robertson said. “I’m not saying they should shut them down, I’m just saying allow me to work as well.”
Wells said the impact to businesses was the largest part of the committee’s discussion last week regarding the emergency restrictions.
“It was a fulsome discussion that weighed the impact to companies versus having proper water levels to fight fires, and was not taken lightly by any of the directors,” Wells said. “I certainly get his (Robertson) point. We’re not trying to have a massive impact — in fact, we’re trying to have the least amount of impact as possible — but at the end of the day, I don’t know how far into the weeds we can get, evaluating every type of business.
“It’s one business week to say, ‘Let’s pull together as a community and conserve water’,” Wells added. “That backup pipe just isn’t able to provide enough water for what is general use, plus maintaining that fire flow.”
“We are very pleased with the response of businesses so far in the community – most of whom acknowledge this is an emergency situation and intend to set a good example,” Dyson added. “We are hopeful that all residents and affected businesses will support each other in implementing these emergency measures as a community, in order to ensure that enough water remains in the system for essential use including fire protection.”
The following circumstances are other exceptions to Stage 4 restrictions:
• Local government watermain and hydrant maintenance is permitted, but only for unscheduled safety or public health reasons.
• Water use is permitted for farm and agricultural operations, but only for livestock drinking purposes.
• Cleaning outdoor surfaces is only authorized when required by law to comply with health or safety regulations, or to comply with an order of a regulatory authority having jurisdiction, such as WorkSafeBC or a public health inspector.
• Irrigating local government all-weather playing fields is permitted.
• Spot cleaning of vehicles and boats with a sponge and bucket for health and safety reasons (windows, lights, licence plates, etc.) is permitted.