Large trees lining both sides of a residential street

Vancouver’s urban forest to receive urgent relief from drought conditions

There is no denying we are facing a climate emergency and it is having a direct impact on our urban trees. I’m very pleased that staff have been able to implement an operational response on short notice.

Commissioner Dave Demers

July 23 2021 –

Street trees and those in Vancouver’s urban parks will be getting some welcome drought relief as emergency watering measures go into effect today to mitigate the impact of what has been unprecedented summer heat and drought in the city’s urban forest. 

Emergency watering response

Beginning today, staff from the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation will be utilizing several high powered water cannons to support trees in naturalized areas where there is limited access to water sources for newly planted or young trees. The firebozz cannons were purchased in 2018 to support drought response, as well as to address urban park fires. 

Staff are also adding an additional 225 gallon water tank and pump to specifically target trees that are younger than five years, as they are most negatively impacted by extreme heat. Staff will begin working overtime weekend shifts to support downtown trees, which are at higher risk for drought due to their locations and the conditions in the downtown core. 

Beginning next week, two contracted 350 gallon water trucks will support staff’s existing fleet of water trucks to aid in the citywide tree watering response. 

Boulevard and urban trees will also begin receiving additional nutrient additives to improve their resilience during the current drought period and heat wave. 

The new measures are being implemented as a result of an urgent motion passed by the Vancouver Park Board earlier this week. Commissioner Dave Demers brought the motion to the Board, where it was supported unanimously. 

How residents can help

Residents across the city are being asked to support hydration efforts by watering trees in their neighbourhoods. Whether in their backyard or on their street, residents are being asked to pour three to five gallons of water (approximately two buckets) around the drip line of a tree, (the outer edge where rain would naturally fall from the leaves overhead) twice a week. Water should be poured slowly to help the tree soak up moisture, and to prevent running off the top soil layer. Alternatively a hose can be used to slowly trickle water on the base of the tree for a few minutes.

The trees that are most in need of water are those on boulevards and in urban park settings, where younger and less densely populated trees do not reap the benefit of having deep root systems or being surrounded by other greenery, which help retain moisture.   

In line with regional advisories, trees are exempt from seasonal watering restrictions both on residential and non-residential properties, if watering is by hand or using drip irrigation. Sprinklers may be used to water trees between the hours of 4am to 9am on residential properties, and between 1am to 9am on non-residential properties.

Staff are also appealing to the public to report trees in distress – those that have leaves that are light-coloured, small, or are hanging down unusually – to 3-1-1 or via the VanConnect app


Commissioner Dave Demers

“There is no denying we are facing a climate emergency and it is having a direct impact on our urban trees,” said Demers. “While our boulevard trees and those in urban parks are meant to withstand a few weeks of heat, the heat dome that we experienced earlier this summer put an incredible amount of stress on trees so we need additional measures to support their health. 

“I’m very pleased that staff have been able to implement an operational response on short notice and want to urge members of the public, neighbourhood associations, and even business improvement associations to get involved.”