Outdoor Water Efficiency
Help Conserve Our Drinking Water Supply
Water consumption varies by season within the City of Markham. Markham experiences peak demand during summer months when water use is at its highest. Peak demand often represents wasteful or unnecessary water use which is not sustainable for Markham’s water conservation goals and the life-span of the City’s waterworks infrastructure. Summer water use also results in higher water bills, but we have some tips to help you manage your outdoor water use and your water bill.
What You Need To Know About The By-law!
- In effect between June 1 and September 30 every year
- Applies to all owners, tenants or lessees of residential properties
- Restricts the use of municipally-supplied drinking water for the purpose of watering your lawns, gardens, trees and shrubs
- Outdoor watering on residential properties is allowed between 6-9 a.m. or 6-9 p.m., but not both
- Properties with an even-numbered street address can water their lawns on even-numbered days during this time
- Properties with an odd-numbered street address can water their lawns on odd-numbered days during this time
- Those in violation of Markham’s Summer Water Restrictions (By-law 105-95) may be fined up to $5,000 upon conviction.
Why Are Summer Water Restrictions Necessary?
During summer months, water consumption can more than double due to increased outdoor water usage. From June 1 to September 30 each year, residents are required to follow Markham’s Summer Water Restrictions (By-law 105-95) to ensure that the demand does not exceed the delivery capacity of the City’s existing water distribution system. Reducing how much water we use during peak hours (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) decreases the need to expand current infrastructure and prolongs its lifespan. This also keeps construction, operation and maintenance costs lower, while keeping the overall cost of providing reliable and safe water to our community affordable.
Summer Water Restrictions Help:
Reduce Infrastructure Demands
Water and wastewater infrastructure is built to handle peak demand times, typically between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is when we collectively use the most treated water. Reducing how much water we use during these peak hours can reduce the need to expand current infrastructure and prolong the lifespan of our distribution pipes and pumping stations. This would lower construction, operation and maintenance costs keeping the overall cost of providing clean water to homes and businesses affordable.
Maintain a Reliable Water Supply
A reliable water supply helps ensure drinking water reserves, adequate water pressure and fire protection. Reducing our use of treated water during peak hours will ensure a reliable water supply we can all count on.
Support Environmental Sustainability
The water used outdoors from sprinklers, hoses and driveway car washing runs off into storm sewers on your street, picking up all sorts of pollutants along the way. Contaminated water entering our storm sewers flow directly into Lake Ontario without being treated. Reducing outdoor water use may also reduce the pollutants that end up in our drinking water source. Remember, there are many plants, wildlife and aquatic animals that rely on a clean lake too.
The City actively patrols for violations in an interdepartmental initiative between Waterworks, By-Law, and Waste Management. Residents that receive the notice have been identified as being non-compliant with the summer water restrictions (By-law 105-95). The notices are distributed to inform, educate and raise awareness throughout the community about proper outdoor water use during the summer.
Are there any exemptions to the By-Law (105-95)?
- Properties with newly laid sod for a period of 2 months after the sod is first laid.
- Properties not connected to the municipal water supply. However, we encourage all property owners to be good environmental stewards and follow the water use restrictions.
For more information, read Markham By-law 105-95 [PDF].
When selecting an irrigation system, choose a system and timer that enables you to:
- Water parts of your property independently;
- Program which days you water;
- Increase or decrease the length of watering time;
- Purchase a soil moisture sensor to monitor moisture levels to ensure optimal plant growth;
- Purchase a rain sensor to automatically stop watering during rain periods.
Using an Irrigation System
- Change your settings on the irrigation controller to suit seasonal weather conditions. (Over-watering is most common during the spring and fall).
- Water your property according to sun or shade exposure and soil type.
- Inspect your irrigation system for leaks, broken or clogged heads and other problems.
- Ensure sprinkler heads are distributing water evenly.
- Never water driveways, or other hard surfaces or structures.
- Do not cut your grass too short – shorter grass requires more water.
- Look for indicators that your lawn needs watering - grass turning a bluish-gray colour, dry soil and footprints remaining in the grass. When you water your property – remember...
- Water early morning - to reduce evaporation, avoid fungus growth and mould.
- Let the water soak in - if water puddles due to dry or compacted soil, stop watering and allow time for it to seep into the ground.
- Less is more - watering too much and too frequently can cause plants to have shallow roots. This enables weed growth, attracts pests and makes plants susceptible to disease/fungus.
The plants you choose and the area of lawn you maintain directly impact how much water you need to keep your yard healthy. Native plants are the best choice when landscaping as they grow in our region naturally and are adapted to the climate. You can save water by limiting the lawn area you keep green and weed free. Trees, shrubs and ground cover absorb much more rainfall and require less maintenance than grass. Placing mulch around plantings will also reduce water evaporation. Another great tip is to groups plants with similar water needs so that the appropriate amount of water is being supplied to reduce water waste.
We do not encourage the use of pesticides, chemical treatments and the over-use of fertilizers. When landscapes are watered or it rains, these chemicals may enter our storm sewers polluting our fresh drinking water source.
Rain Gardens - Low Impact Development
Rain Gardens are a great way of managing storm water runoff and protecting the quality of water that flows into local streams, ponds, rivers, and lakes. A rain garden uses a depression in the landscape to collect water runoff. It incorporates loose, deep soil and native plant species that are both drought and water tolerant, permitting 30% more water to penetrate into the ground than would a lawn. You can visit a demonstration rain garden at the Markham Museum, or see other demonstration rain gardens in the region. Find out more information on how you can create water efficient landscaping from the TRCA Rain Gardens publication.
Maintaining a Healthy Lawn (Courtesy of York Region)
- Aerate every other fall to limit soil compaction, increase water absorption and help to reduce thatch
- Top dress every spring or fall with compost; rake into the lawn to a depth of half an inch
- Over-seed every spring or fall with a grass seed high in fescue content (at least 60%) and low in Kentucky Blue content (20% at most)
- Fescue grasses have fine glades that are drought and disease resistant due to their deep rooting system
- Kentucky Blue grass which is the only grass found in sod, has the shallowest root system and is therefore the type of seed that is the weakest, most water dependent and most susceptible to disease
- Mowing height should be six centimetres to eight centimetres to shade roots and prevent weed seed germination
- Fertilize every fall with compost to give your lawn the nutrients it needs to make it through the winter for more Tips Watch This Video
For more tips watch the "Be Water Smart - Lawn Maintenance Tips video.
Disconnect Your Downspout and Collect the Rain
Disconnect your downspout from the sewer system and redirect the water to your yard and garden. A rain barrel is an efficiency way to collect and store rainwater from your roof. Rain barrels are available at local hardware stores and have minimal maintenance once installed. Choose a barrel that holds a minimum 200 litres and has a mesh screen covering the water entry to keep out mosquitoes and other pests. Use an overflow hose to direct water into the garden or a grassed area where it will soak into the ground. You can elevate your barrel to create increased water pressure, and link multiple barrels for greater capacity. Be sure to empty your rain barrel and bring it indoors or turn it over before it freezes in the fall. Water left in the barrel over winter can crack the plastic walls. TRCA has produced an information sheet.
York Region has produced a number of publications and short videos on lawn and garden care. To help you choose the right plants for your space, Water for Tomorrow has developed the York Region Water-Efficient Plant Selection Guide.
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority has information on everything from deer and rabbit resistant plants to beneficial insects. Visit the Healthy Yards Connection website to access this material.
Splash and Save with These Easy Tips!
- Be attentive when filling your pool, spa or hot tub to prevent over-flows or over-filling.
- Use covers to reduce water loss due to evaporation and make sure they fit properly. You may also see a reduction in your energy bill as this will decrease heath loss.
- Repair any leaks, they won’t fix themselves!
- Warmer water evaporates more quickly; turn down the temperature.
- Refrain from using fountains and waterfalls; the effect of aeration accelerates evaporation.
- Manually cleaning filters uses less water compared to backwashing. The average backwash can use between 950-3,780 litres of water.
- Most people backwash more frequently than necessary. Some pool filters do not have to be backwashed at all; they can be taken apart and cleaned.
- Try to avoid water loss though excessive splash-out.
- Maintain proper chemical levels and adequate circulation time. This will avoid the the need to use excessive amounts of make-up water or drainage to correct an unbalanced environment.
What You Need to Know About Proper Drainage!
Pools, hot tubs, and spas should always be drained properly. This water may contain high concentrations of substances harmful to our environment.
- Do not add chemicals for 2 weeks prior to draining your pool, spa or hot tub.
- Make sure you remove chemicals from the water before draining (i.e. if your pool uses chlorine, dechlorinated before draining).
- A good option is to drain onto your lawn.
Save Water, Save Money
- Cleaning your driveway with a garden hose wastes water. When cleaning your driveway or sidewalk, sweep away dirt with a broom. Rain will do the rest!
- Take your car to a commercial car wash! They may use up to 50% less water than washing your vehicle in your driveway and prevents chemicals and pollutants from entering our storm sewers.
- If you must wash you car at home, use a bucket and sponge. This can save about 300 litres of water per wash. That’s enough water to do two full loads of laundry.