07/08/2015 08:03 EDT | Updated 07/08/2016 05:59 EDT

Water restrictions in Metro Vancouver limit sidewalk cleaning

Drought conditions in Metro Vancouver could mean dirtier sidewalks this summer, littered with chewing gum, mould, mildew and even fungus.

For the first time since 2003, Metro Vancouver has implemented stage two water restrictions, which among other things prohibit private and commercial washing for aesthetic purposes.

"It's new and uncharted territory for us for sure," said Brett Murray, owner and operations manager for Gum Fighters Pressure Washing. 

Out of a job

Typically July is one of the peak months for power-washing jobs on strata and commercial properties, which covers anything from the penthouses down to the parkades and sidewalk gum removal, he said.

"You got guys out there that had a full work week and now that could potentially be in jeopardy," Murray said.

He is in discussion with Metro Vancouver and other local authorities to see if it would be possible to obtain a commercial exemption.  

"Two weeks is one thing, but these restrictions very well could go on for a period of two or three months. That's definitely a whole new ball game." 

Potable versus grey water

Power washers typically connect to the building's commercial water sources and use between 11 to 13 litres of potable water per minute, Murray said.  

When asked whether grey water could be a viable option, Murray replied that the costs can be prohibitive given the number of properties his company services and the flexibility they require. 

While the industry commonly uses water reclamation techniques in desert climates such as Arizona and New Mexico, Murray said commercial water sources are the most efficient option in the Lower Mainland.

"It's rare that any companies here would. It is quite expensive, and barring the weather conditions that we're having now, this is a unique thing."

The new normal?

With climate scientists predicting more severe droughts in summer, Murray says the industry must look for ways to incorporate water-saving technologies.  

These could include low-flow machinery and soft-washing, which relies more on cleaning solutions than a large volume of water.

"Obviously with the implications of this summer and how this could play out, it absolutely has to be something that we would consider in the future."

To hear the full interview with Brett Murray, listen to the audio labelled: Water restrictions and powerwashing.