Rossland farmer seeks exemption from water rules

Every-second-day watering does commercial farmers no good, council hears

Happy Hills sells its crops at the weekly Rossland Farmer’s Market. (Photo from happyhillsfarm.ca)

A Rossland farming couple who ran afoul of the city’s water restrictions wants an exemption from the rules so they can grow food.

Miche Warwick says she and her partner Dan Hayden got a visit from the bylaw officer last week when they were watering their crops.

“We had a very lovely visit from Neil, the bylaw officer, to tell us we were using water outside the restrictions,” Warwick told council Monday night.

“We are still in city limits, we have an even-numbered address, which means we can only water on even-numbered days.

But Warwick says crops don’t follow regulations.

“From a farm perspective, we’re not coming to tell you we necessarily need to use more water, that’s not it,” she said. “What we need is accessibility to water at various times of the day to strategically use water to grow the crops we need to grow.”

Rossland has to develop a water restriction system that considers the needs of commercial farms, said Warwick. Council heard it wouldn’t be a huge burden on the supply, as there are only two farms growing food for sale within city limits.

“If Rossland wants to eat salad, we need to put the water on at the hottest time of the day, even if it’s just for for 15 or 20 minutes,” she said. “What that water does is cool down the soil so the crops don’t overheat and bolt.

“It’s not that we need a lot of water, it’s that we need a bit more flexible time periods than that-and-that, on only even-numbered days.”

Warwick’s Happy Hills farm just started this year, and sells vegetables at the local farmer’s market. As a new farm, they are still developing water conservation systems for their food production. But the current water restrictions are designed to discourage residential waste, she said, and don’t make sense for farming.

“The water restrictions allow for 10 hours of watering every second day. We would never water that much, we need it at strategic times,” council heard. “We’re not looking for a free ride, we acknowledge we are using water, we are prepared and willing and eager to pay for it.”

Council heard that while the city has Stage 2 restrictions in place at the moment, allowing Happy Hills’ operation would not have a significant impact on the water supply.

Council was sympathetic, and agreed to allow an exemption for Happy Hills farm and other commercial food producers. Mayor Kathy Moore said council would convene a meeting later in the year to go over water restriction rules and get feedback on the existing regulations. Warwick said she was satisfied with what she heard.

“I am happy. They are very receptive to food security and growing food here, the staff and council and mayor are supportive of that. They just have to get there.

“We are eager to get information to the table to inform a decision. But it has to be in the winter, because we don’t have the time right now to dedicate to this type of presentation or project.”

 

Happy Hills sells its crops at the weekly Rossland Farmer’s Market. (Photo from happyhillsfarm.ca)

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