Drought in Ontario: A Grim Reality (U. Khan)

I was driving home earlier this week, and I noticed that a lot of the lawns on my street seemed very dry and almost yellow in colour. After doing some research online, I was surprised to find out that Ontario has been under increasingly drought-like conditions over the past few months. If you read my earlier blog on the forest fire in Fort McMurray, you will remember the fact that an increase in the number of droughts is one of the effects of climate change. The current conditions then serve as a reminder to us about what can happen in the future as a result of climate change. Large scale droughts will be a major cause of concern for Canada as we have a major agricultural sector in our economy. We need to adopt policies that not only manage these changing conditions but also stop further damage to the environment.

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Accumulated Precipitation in Ontario over the last two months. Source: AAFC

Toronto has received only 26 mm of rain in June, compared to an average of 71.5 mm of rain that fell in June during 1981 and 2010. The lack of rain is not the only problem, in areas that have received rain comparable to their usual average, the rain has come in intense downpours of 30-40 mm at a time. Although rain is great to relieve drought conditions, such a large amount of water cannot be absorbed by the drought ridden arid ground surface. This causes the water to flow and run-off before it can be absorbed. This can also lead to flash floods and even soil degradation.

The agricultural sector in Ontario is facing smaller crop yields and higher costs this year due to the drought. Farmers have to water their crops for an increasing number of hours. Jason Verkaik, chairman of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association says that he has been watering his crops for 20 hours a day, 6 days a week. Normally he would water them for 3 or 4 nights a week. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada(AAFC), extremely dry conditions now stretch from the Ottawa Valley to the Niagara Peninsula. The conditions are that of severe drought event, which happens approximately once every two decades.

 

What is being done?

The city of Guelph has declared a Level 2 Red watering restriction. This means that outside water use is now restricted to only to essential things. Lawn watering and washing vehicles is prohibited at home. Non-compliance to the restrictions can lead to a ticket of $130. Although the Region of Peel has no such restriction in place, there are a few things we can do that will conserve outdoor water use:

  • Water early in the morning or late in the afternoon to stop water loss from evaporation
  • Grow flowers and trees that do not require an abundant amount of water
  • Add mulch to your garden, this will help retain moisture and protect your lawn from water loss

More tips can be found at the Region of Peel website

The Ontario Climate Change Action Plan released earlier this year had various ideas that help to combat climate change. The government had unveiled an $8.3 billion to combat the problem of climate change, and faced criticism for the large spending. The floods that impacted Ontario in the past few years and this drought are evidence of the fact that there is a direct impact of climate change on the lives of Ontarians and the government needs to act. The Action Plan is a step in the right direction, and the government needs to be make sure that the targets presented in the plan are met in a timely fashion. The economic losses from these natural disasters are going to start adding up, and spending money to stop the problem from occurring might be better over the long term for both the environment as well as the economy.

 

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One Reply to “Drought in Ontario: A Grim Reality (U. Khan)”

  1. The author wrote that the increase of drought conditions is likely due to climate change, but there was also mention that the Niagara Region experiences severe drought episodes once every two decades. Do you think that climate change is changing the frequency and severity of the drought cycle in the Niagara Region?

    One other thing, mulching is great for gardens and shrubs but I have never heard of it being used to help with water retention on lawns 😉 !

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