Although the installation of water meters will save a million litres a day, the Coast’s supply of water is actually similar to the drought of 2015.
The fire hazard on the Sunshine Coast has eased and campfire bans were lifted on Sept. 18, but Stage 3 water restrictions remain in effect across the SCRD until fall rains replenish Chapman Lake.
Michael Day, General Manager of Infrastructure, reported on Sept. 21 to the SCRD’s Infrastructure Services Committee that water usage this summer was consistently higher than targeted.
“Stage 2 [water restrictions] began July 21 and Stage 3 began September 1, which was very late,” said Day. “Overall use has been higher than the stated objective but it is important to note that once we announced Stage 3, there was really a significant reduction in water demand in the community.”
Comparing this year to the drought of 2015, he said that although we started out with a good snow pack and didn’t have to implement water restrictions until late in the summer, we used up the water faster. In 2015 it took 82 days to go from a full lake to 30 per cent of capacity. In 2017 we are on track to be down 30 per cent capacity in only 72 days.
The capacity quoted by Day is the amount of Chapman Lake that can be drawn down through an existing channel that gives access to the top three metres of the 23-metre-deep lake. If the level drops very low, the SCRD can use a siphon and pump system to draw out more water.
Day said in an interview Sept. 26 that he is monitoring the consumption rate and the weather forecasts closely. If required, the SCRD will go to Stage 4 water restrictions and – likely at the same time – use the siphon. The siphon is already at the site, but a crew would have to helicoptered in to put it in operation.
In July 2016 the SCRD board approved a Water Supply Expansion Project to build a deeper water channel so the lake can be drawn down another five metres. The work was scheduled to begin this fall, but is awaiting permits from BC Parks.
Day also reported that the water metering program has detected 977 leaks so far, for a total water savings (when all the leaks are repaired) of approximately one million litres per day. So far, one in five service connections has been found to be leaking.
Day said that three quarters of home owners voluntarily repaired their leaks as soon as they were notified.
More than half of the water savings to date are in the Pender Harbour water system, but additional leaks are expected to be found when the metering program is expanded to include the District of Sechelt.
Access to more water in the Chapman Lake reservoir will help to quench the thirst of the coast’s growing population, but other parts of the infrastructure are also reaching their limits. The SCRD’s 2013 Comprehensive Regional Water Plan notes that the Chapman Creek water treatment plant is operating close to its design capacity and will have to be expanded.
The SCRD supplies water to over 25,000 Sunshine Coast residents from Secret Cove to Gibsons. Over 90 per cent of that water is drawn from Chapman Lake.