Sandy Casselman
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

BERWICK – A water crisis in the Village of Crysler has led to the township of North Stormont regulating residents’ water consumption.

Council passed a Water Usage Bylaw during the regular June 1 meeting, giving staff permission to regulate the usage of “water from any municipal waterworks at any time between May 1 and Sept. 30 of any year for the purpose of watering lawns, gardens, flowers, hedges, or any other vegetation outside any building.” While the bylaw covers all North Stormont, it is being implemented due to water shortage issues stemming from the renovation of Crysler’s water tower.

“Is this a result of the town of Crysler using too much water? And does it only pertain to Crysler,” Coun. Roxane Villeneuve asked.

Chief administrative officer (CAO) Craig Calder said the bylaw is in response to the current situation in Crysler, but it is not specific to Crysler, as this is not possible under current legislation. He said it was the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) that noticed the water capacity issue May 31 and they were quite concerned with what they saw.

Councillor Randy Douglas asked if this is standard for municipalities and Calder confirmed that it is standard. Douglas said if this is the case, then this was a gap in North Stormont’s policies.

“Given the fact that our resources are limited, I think it’s wise for us to start building behaviours across all of North Stormont,” Coun. Steve Densham said. “Thank them for their patience. Infrastructure like this requires maintenance. I really appreciate the fact that as a community, Crysler pulls together to help their neighbours, and this is just another example.”

The municipality issued a statement to Crysler residents via its Facebook page on June 1: “There shall be no external watering of lawns and gardens due to the limited capacity available from the temporary water shortage while the water tower is being repainted.”

Some residents questioned the timing of the work, suggesting there could have been better planning done on the part of the township. Someone said many residents had purchased plants and suggested that these could be lost due to the new water conservation measure.

“This work cannot be completed during the wintertime. Upgrades to the tower are necessary and certainly OCWA will provide long-term benefits. We’re trying to minimize the impact on the rest of the township,” Calder told council during the June 1 meeting. He said that while staff was currently focused on Crysler, if a draught were to arise, then staff would need to enforce the new bylaw throughout the township.

Following council’s approval of the new Water Usage Bylaw, a new statement was posted online outlining the work to be done to Crysler’s water tower, as well as the timeline and potential repercussions to residents during that time. It was noted that Dayson Industrial Services Inc. is doing the work, while OCWA is responsible for the operational components of the project. The work is estimated to take 12 weeks. It began May 26 and is expected to last until the end of August.

“Temporary storage is being provided by three potable water tanks located on site at Crysler’s Water Treatment Plant,” the new Facebook post stated. “System pressure will be maintained throughout the project using OCWA’s portable high lift pumping trailer. While every attempt will be made to stabilize system pressures, there may be occurrences of both high and low-system pressure throughout the village while the water tower is offline.”

The ban on water usage for Crysler residents was removed on June 3 and residents were asked to reduce their water consumption to ensure that water is available when needed. All North Stormont residents were asked to read the new bylaw, which is available on the township website.

As per the bylaw, from May 1 to Sept. 30, residents of even-numbered buildings are permitted to use water for lawn-associated purposes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., while those from odd-numbered properties can do so on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. There is no watering permitted on Sundays. Exceptions can be made for newly installed sod, but the landowner must contact the municipality prior to using the water.

In a related issue, on June 4, the South Nation Conservation (SNC) declared a Level 1 Low Water Condition for its entire watershed in Eastern Ontario. In the issued statement, SNC asked residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce their water consumption by 10 per cent to help mitigate the impacts of low water on municipal water supplies.