OUR VIEW: There’s a joke in this somewhere

We say: Water restrictions are not clearly understood

How does the old saying go: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink?

Wiser comedians than we can make that into a witty comment related to the current situation with people’s understanding of water restrictions in Campbell River. But the frustration Coun. Larry Samson expressed at Monday’s city council meeting over the calls he has to field regarding water restrictions in the city is no joke, to him at least.

Samson served a notice of motion on July 22 that city staff prepare a “comprehensive water restrictions communications plan.” The reason for that motion was the frequent questions Samson receives from the public wondering why the city has not upgraded its water restrictions to a higher level, given the drought conditions being experienced on Vancouver Island.

The reason, of course, is that greater restrictions are not needed. That doesn’t mean the current level of conservation city residents are implementing on a voluntary basis can be relaxed. It’s just that we have the luxury of drawing our city water from a massive lake, reservoir and river system. Again, water levels are at record lows but there is still enough water in the system, frankly, thanks to BC Hydro’s management of the huge water supply. The power utility’s most recent action filled the Lower Campbell-John Hart reservoir to the point where they have a 32-day supply of water at current levels. If the Strathcona Dam spillway gates were to close then water levels in the lower river and Campbell River’s water supply could continue for 32 days before further action would be taken.

Samson’s frustration arises out of the lack of understanding in the public about this system and he felt the city should be more proactive in getting that information out. There is an implication that the media, i.e., the paper, i.e., the Campbell River Mirror should be getting that word out as well. And that raises some issues. The main one being that that information has been put out there by both city staff and the newspaper. The information is available on the city’s website, in stories on our website and in city mailouts.

The problem is one that we in this business see all the time and that is, you can often put out all the information you want but if the public isn’t reading it or making an effort to access it, then they’re not going to learn anything about the issue. This is the place where that adage about leading the horse to water comes in.

You see it often in social media these days where people can comment on things at the drop of a hat without having adequate knowledge of the issue. And that whips up a furor. Also, city public hearings often have people coming before council regarding some zoning or other change happening and expressing the complaint that they hadn’t heard anything about this.

There is confusion out there about water restrictions and why we haven’t gone to a higher level. We’ve put it on the front page. Will the questions cease?

We’ll find out.