Tofino has water in abundance, but much of it is lost into the ground and the community is forced into water restrictions each summer as the resource runs dry during the busy months.
With an eye on taking advantage of the water that falls from the sky, Tofino’s district office is launching a new pilot program that is offering a $400 rebate for locals who sign on for a rainwater catchment system with a minimum 400-gallon capacity.
The pilot program is open to 11 households and one business and anyone interested in participating is encouraged to email TofinoLocalFood@gmail.com. The deadline for applications is April 28.
Tofino mayor Josie Osborne is excited about the program and hopes the catchment idea catches on with locals.
“In Tofino, we’re very conscientious about our water use and any kind of incentive program that inspires people at their homes or at their business to conserve water, is a benefit for the town,” she said.
“The diversion of rain pilot incentive program will help people cover part of the cost of installing a rainwater catchment system so that they can use non potable water for gardening or washing their cars or surf boards or wetsuits; things that we don’t have to have potable water for.”
She added Tofitians have a healthy appetite for exploring new conservation techniques and added the rain catchment systems could serve as helpful, visual reminders that the resource is limited.
“It’s part of the ethos, really, of many people who live in Tofino. They want to conserve and lighten their footprint on the environment so to speak and conserving water is one of the many actions we can take as residents and business owners to lighten that footprint,” she said. “Every little bit we do helps.”
The rebate program is a collaboration between the district and the Tofino Community Food Initiative. Initiative coordinator Leah Austin hopes the pilot sees enough success.
“One of our biggest resources is rain,” she said. “Instead of it just going out into the ground, you’re going to be catching it to use later in the non rainy season for your gardening…The larger the catchment system, the better because it will get you further into the summer.”
She said rain catchment systems start around $2,000 and hopes the $400 rebate will motivate more locals to install one.
“It’s a really good opportunity for people to get on board with this,” she said. “If this is successful, which I really see that it will be, the district will look at doing further rebates in the future.”
She said water rates are perpetually rising and locals who get onboard with the rain catchment movement will see significant savings on their water bills, especially high-users like gardeners.
“The great thing about rainwater catchment systems is that they don’t really have a shelf-life. Once you have it, you’ve got it,” she said. “You can be saving money on water for years and years to come.”
She added catchment systems will also serve as valuable conversation starters around water use.
“It’s opening peoples’ minds a little bit about that and making people more aware of, and maybe even feeling a little grateful for how lucky we are that we have great water here in Tofino and on the West Coast.”
The non profit organization has been operating since 2009. It runs Tofino’s community garden, organizes local events like edible garden tours and Seedy Saturdays and also hosts a local food booth during summertime’s weekly Tofino Public Market.
“We’ve started to open people’s eyes to the fact that you can grow on the Coast,” she said. “The TCFI has really focused a lot on how you can grow here and what you can grow. We bring in lots of really great workshop facilitators throughout the year.”
Austin moved to Tofino in 2000 and didn’t expect to be able to continue her gardening.
“I’ve always been a gardener and when I moved here I thought how can you grow here? It’s gloomy. It’s dark. It’s rainy all the time and foggy in the summer,” she said. “I really just kind of put the gardening aside and didn’t even try to think about it because I thought it was impossible.”
Austin began meeting other locals who gardened and received tips on what can grow and how it can grow.
“We love talking food and gardens so I think that helps that we can start those conversations,” she said adding the group also helps out with Wickaninnish Community School’s garden.
“I think that’s really exciting that we’re hopefully helping the younger generation to see the value of growing your own food.”