Parched ground and rapidly declining lake levels in the Pembina Valley have forced the City of Morden to declare extreme drought conditions and the rationing of available water.

Parched ground and rapidly declining lake levels in the Pembina Valley have forced the City of Morden to declare extreme drought conditions and the rationing of available water.

The municipality is asking residents and commercial operators to scale back on water use, and placing mandatory restrictions on industrial operators, to reduce water consumption overall by more than 30 per cent, in alignment with the city’s drought response plan.

Mayor Brandon Burley said in the past two weeks, levels at Lake Minnewasta, the community’s primary drinking water source, fell approximately 30 centimetres. Previously, the rate of decline was about 15 cm every two weeks.

"This is historically low for this body of water," Burley said. "For some reason, it went down almost a foot during that same period in the last week, so that kind of thing is concerning."

Currently, the lake is nearly nine feet (2.7 metres) below full supply, which pushed the drought status from severe to extreme, and prompted the immediate implementation of restrictions.

The south-central Manitoba city is asking residents and industrial and commercial users to reduce the water usage over and above levels laid out in the response plan to achieve the 30 per cent reduction overall.

Landscape watering, outdoor leisure use of water, residential car washing, irrigation using city water, hydrant flushing and construction activities using city water are not permitted.

City splash pads will be closed, and residents are not allowed to fill private pools using city water.

Industrial operators must reduce water consumption by at least 20 per cent and residents and commercial property owners are asked to voluntarily conserve water at their properties.

Burley said the municipality expects conservation orders to remain in effect until the region sees significant rainfall to replenish the lake, and planning is underway should the drought persist through the winter, when the drought conditions are expected to become critical should precipitation levels remain low.

"I hope it leads to a greater regional awareness of conservation especially with climate change occurring," Burley added.

"We are vulnerable to large population growth on such a small amount of water capacity."