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Moderate drought declared in Manitoba community

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Residents of Morden, Man., are being urged to reduce their water usage after the city declared a moderate drought stage on Tuesday.

According to the City of Morden, a moderate drought stage is when the water supply is below average levels by three to 5.5 feet of the full supply level.

During a moderate drought, community members are asked to be mindful of their water usage, including taking shorter showers, fixing any leaks, and reducing outdoor watering activities.

As the city aims to reduce water usage by 10 per cent, it is offering residents the following advice on saving water in the winter months:

  • Insulate pipes and faucets;
  • Collect and use snowmelt;
  • Adjust indoor heating;
  • Maximize dishwasher and washing machine loads;
  • Limit shower time;
  • Use a basin when washing dishes; and
  • Avoid unnecessary flushing.

More information on the restrictions in place, including a mandatory odd-even schedule for landscape and garden watering, can be found online. 

WHAT’S THE CAUSE?

According to Natalie Hasell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), southern Manitoba has been experiencing warm and dry conditions over the last little while.

She said the temperatures have been “unusually warm” in a lot of places, and that El Niño is playing a role.

“El Niño is this ocean phenomenon in the Pacific by the Equator,” she explained.

“We’ve noticed that when temperatures in the surface waters of the Equatorial Pacific are warmer than normal by at least 0.5 of a degree – anything warmer than 0.5 of a degree of normal is considered an El Niño event.”

Hasell noted that precipitation amounts were low in November, adding that there’s been an overall dry trend in Manitoba for most of the summer and fall.

Hasell explained that there are consequences to not getting enough precipitation, including an increased wildfire risk and a rising cost of food.

“We have certainly seen a number of times over the last several years where we’ve had particularly dry conditions and the repercussions might not be immediate, but the consequences are real,” she said.

Bethany Daman with Manitoba's Climate Action Team says the high use of fossil fuels is the root cause of rising temperatures.

"We are having low water levels as a result of our changing climate and our response right now is to burn more fossil fuels to be able to provide for our energy needs,” Daman says, noting Manitoba Hydro’s Brandon generating station’s gas-powered plant was fired up in October.

Manitoba Hydro says it has run the turbine periodically since then to avoid importing electricity to Brandon.

Daman says change is needed to keep from resorting to gas-powered electricity generators.

"We need to look at diversifying our energy grid. So we need to look at sources such as wind and such as solar."

- With files from CTV’s Jill Macyshon.

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