Hundreds of Vancouverites snitching on their lawn-watering neighbours

B.C. drought: Hundreds of Metro Vancouver's water hogs issued sprinkler warnings
B.C. drought: Hundreds of Metro Vancouver's water hogs issued sprinkler warnings

The California phenomenon of drought shaming may not be far behind as hundreds of B.C. residents snitch on their car-washing and lawn-watering neighbours.

Vancouver and its surrounding communities have issued tight restrictions on water usage this summer amid quickly evaporating reservoirs. Residents have been told to let their cars stay dirty and their lawns go brown.

"Following a low snow pack and increased heat with no rain, new water restrictions came into effect this week throughout Metro Vancouver,” reads a notice on the City of Vancouver’s website.

“New water restrictions for municipalities, residents, and businesses are designed for an immediate impact to slow down and curb water consumption to protect our reserves for the rest of the summer.”

But not everyone is complying with the rules. Between June 1 and July 7, the City of Vancouver received 780 complaints on its 311 line regarding water usage violations, resulting in 700 warnings and two tickets, city spokesman Jag Sandhu told Yahoo Canada News.

“These are mostly the result of patrol officers following up on reports from concerned citizens. The predominant reason for the warnings are lawn watering outside of permissible times,” Sandhu said.

According to the Province newspaper, the same thing is happening in other neighbouring cities, with 215 warnings in Surrey since June 1, 25 in Port Coquitlam over the last three days and 140 in Langley township so far.

The phenomenon of neighbours reporting each other has proven divisive. On Reddit, the question “Would you dial 311 to report a neighbor that is ignoring water restrictions?” has garnered more than 160 replies.

“I've seen some people argue that ‘snitching’ on a neighbor creates distrust and doesn't create a sense of community; also, that the city should do its own policing,” it reads.

“Others have argued that we're all affected by water shortages so it's in our own best interest to ensure the water restrictions are adhered to. Thoughts?”

Some spoke out in favour of reporting water violations to municipal authorities, arguing that people are putting their lawns before the greater good.

“Just call and don't tell the neighbor it was you who did it. I've called on some people already. I've passed plenty of violators in other neighborhoods and considered calling as well. People need to take it more seriously," wrote one user.

Vancouver's water reservoirs are at 75 per cent, levels not usually seen until much later in the summer. Yet, water usage continues to rise, recently hitting 1.6 billion litres a day, according to Metro Vancouver figures.

Still, some on Reddit said there’s no need to call the authorities when you can just talk to your neighbours.

“Try to take care of it by being a good neighbor and talking with them about it. Maybe they don't know?” reads one reply.

“If you've tried to be a good neighbor and talked to them directly about it and they're still being selfish a-holes then go for the 311. Sure, they might suspect it's you who snitched on them, but we do have a responsibility to the greater community and a person being a dill-hole isn't a good reason to be a coward and do nothing.”

In California, four years of water shortages have pushed drought-shaming far beyond anonymous phone calls. Residents there have taken to social media to call out their neighbours, some even using apps designed specifically to report water-wasters.

Celebrities — with their large, lush green properties — have frequently been targets of the phenomenon. Most recently, Tom Selleck was hit with a lawsuit for his alleged repeated violations water use restrictions at his 24-hectare ranch in Westlake Village.

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