Farmers, water well users in southwestern Ontario deal with arid May

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May 8, 2002
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April showers bring May flowers — as the saying goes — but what if there isn't much rain in May? For farmer James Roberts, this recent spate of dry spring weather in southwestern Ontario, while not yet at a crisis point, is undoubtedly a cause for concern. "I would like to see three of four days of rain to be honest with you," said Roberts, who co-owns Adelaide Farms in Arva, just north of London. "If it continues on, it's gonna hurt things. It's getting to the point when we really need some moisture." Roberts said dry conditions work well for sowing his crops, which include strawberries, sweet corn, potatoes and asparagus. But a weeks-long lack of rain makes transplanting difficult and can delay seed germination. "It was way too cold early on in the spring, now all of a sudden it's really hot and dry," he said. With a week left, this May is shaping up to be among the driest on record in the London area. May could see record low precipitation Steven Flisfeder, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said while March and April received average amounts of rainfall this spring, May has been drier than many would like. "May could squeak by as a record low for precipitation, and looking at spring overall, it's not been record-breaking, but certainly low." Flisfeder said that in a normal May, most parts of southwestern Ontario would see about 90 to 100 millimetres of rain. Heading into the long weekend, only 10.5 mm of precipitation had fallen. The driest May on record in London happened in 1954, with only 13.8 mm of precipitation for the entire month. While this May long weekend could bring some rain, Flisfeder said it's unlikely to be enough to ease the concern of some farmers, gardeners and others in need of a decent spring soaking. "We might get a few showers but it's probably not going to be enough to give them that relief that they're desperately in need of." With humidity also high, Flisfeder said thunderstorms could deliver some rain to the region this weekend and into the week, though that will likely be localized and short in duration. With an eye on his crops, Roberts said he would much prefer a steady rain spread over a longer time. Concerns for water well users Farmers are not the only ones affected by the recent lack of rain. Lisa McLeod, co-owner of McLeod water wells in Strathroy, Ont., has been busy with calls from customers concerned about low water levels. She also had a no-water call on Friday. "We've been hearing from customers looking to improve their current water systems," she said. "People are looking for irrigation systems for their lawns, their crops or to fill up pools." McLeod recommends that people with concerns about their wells don't delay in calling a contractor for an assessment. She said if dry conditions continue, it could leave local well contractors scrambling to keep up with demand. She also recommends that landowners with wells keep an eye on the weather and do what they can to curtail use if the dry weather continues. "We want to encourage people to conserve their water and only use it if they need to, because their well may not sustain as well as it has in past years."

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