August 30, 2006

Drought to Shut Down Rain Forest Resort

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A well-known resort town in a Canadian Pacific rain forest must shutter its hotels and businesses this week because a prolonged drought has slashed water supplies, officials said on Wednesday.

Tofino, perched on the tip of Vancouver Island on Canada's Pacific coast, is in a picturesque region that is popular with surfers and whale watchers. It relies on rainwater to fill its main reservoir, and officials ordered the shutdown because there has been no significant rainfall since June.

"We just don't have the water to offer them, that's all there is to it," Tofino mayor John Fraser told CBC television, noting the town was experiencing its third driest year on record and had ordered businesses to shut from Friday.

"We normally end up getting a good rain sometime along the way (to) bail us out. But this year has just been different ... the weather forecast for the next two weeks, even two months is still continued dry without prospect of rain," said Fraser.

Local hotels, restaurant and businesses complained that the closure would cause big losses, since it comes at the start of the popular three-day Labor Day weekend.

One local businessman said Tofino had regularly experienced problems with water supplies in previous years, in part because of a boom in tourism.

"Water has been a major issue in Tofino ... because of the fact that (in summer) 15,000 to 20,000 people are in a town that normally holds 1,500," Laird Salton told CBC.

The town has switched to a secondary supply and is advising residents to boil drinking water.

Fraser said Tofino planned to increase the size of its reservoir to prevent similar problems next year.