The SCRD is one small step closer to finding additional sources of water to reduce regional dependence on Chapman Lake, but Coast politicians are impatient with the process.
On Oct. 18, Sechelt Council voted to invite SCRD management to a future special meeting about water. Mayor Bruce Milne pointed out that Sechelt is a major user of the system. Sechelt residents pay over $1.3 million to the SCRD, or about 40 per cent of parcel taxes collected by the SCRD for water.
Councillor Noel Muller said: “In the past four years we’ve had three severe water shortages and we keep getting asked again and again the same question: what’s going on with the storage?” Muller noted that Sechelt has thousands of proposed new residential units on its books and asked: “Do we have water for the units that are being approved around this table?”
Councillor Doug Wright said of the SCRD’s regional water plan: “Having a good plan is one thing but the value in the plan is what you get out of it in results. And so far, I haven’t seen any results. I guess maybe it’s time to amend the plan.”
Mayor Bruce Milne concurred. “Climate change is accelerating and I think the plan needs to be accelerated.”
The following day, at the SCRD infrastructure services committee, regional directors received a report on possible sources of groundwater from Darren David, principal hydrogeologist for Waterline Resources. Waterline identified 12 potential drilling sites in the Chapman Creek, Gray Creek, Elphinstone, and Soames/Granthams areas that are close to existing water lines and could easily be tied into the system.
Based on a “desktop study” using geological data and well records, Waterline said the most promising sites were two along Mahan Road in Elphinstone, one at Gray Creek, and one at Soames Point. Drilling tests must be carried out to confirm the suitability of the sites.
The consultant was unable to speculate how much water these wells might add to the regional system, but he did warn that tapping a large volume of water from one aquifer could trigger an expensive environmental assessment by the province.
Roberts Creek Director Mark Lebbell expressed concerns about thinking of aquifers as “a silver bullet that will solve all our problems.” He said: “This director is nervous about aquifers because they’re difficult to see and measure, and the ecological impact is hard to measure.”
Area E Director Lorne Lewis asked if the SCRD could seek out non-potable water sources for irrigation. “In Quesnel there’s a huge supply of non-potable water that the public can just come and tap into,” he said. “Should we be seeking out a source like that?”
Town of Gibsons Director Jeremy Valeriote was “dismayed” that town staff hadn’t been consulted about the well report. “This is a shared resource. We can’t extract it in silos,” said Valeriote. The two Mahan Road wells on the most-promising list would tap into the Gibsons aquifer.
The cost of a well test drilling program is estimated at $325,000. SCRD directors voted to refer it to the 2018 budget process which starts in December.
SCRD CAO Janette Loveys assured directors that they could expect to see a report on all the SCRD’s water initiatives and “how they work together” at an upcoming meeting. Donna McMahon