The rain was pouring down as Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors heard the latest water supply and snowpack update.
“It’s pouring, which is good from a water supply perspective, so you won’t hear me complain,” general manager of infrastructure services Remko Rosenboom said during a May 12 meeting.
The Chapman snow water equivalent was 120 per cent of normal as of a May 1st measurement. Usually, May is the last snow survey for the season, and typically there is a decrease in the snow pack by that time. This year, the snow was expected to be higher in May. The Edwards snow water equivalent was even higher at 151 per cent of normal.
While the measurements are higher than last year, Rosenboom reminded directors of how the summer season turned out in terms of water supply.
“Yes the current cooler weather and rain is positive for the timing of the snow melt, but in case we have another hot spell like we had last year in June, all that potential advantage can be melted away and evaporate very quickly,” Rosenboom said. “For now, there is definitely a potential for a delayed Stage 2 to be called for the Chapman system.”
Stage 2 is usually called when the water from Chapman Lake stops flowing over the dam. Last year, that was in early June.
The May weather forecast, as of May 5, shows the area as being “neutral,” Rosenboom reported, so may not be warmer or cooler than normal, likely delaying the snow melt until mid or late May. An additional snow survey has been scheduled for June 1.
Stage 1 water conservation regulations began on May 1 (as they do annually). By the 12th, Rosenboom reported there had been no water violation complaints. Despite the weather, the SCRD is beginning to see an increase in water demand in all areas than in winter months.
Minimal calls are coming in regarding rainwater harvest applications, he added. By the May 12 meeting, the SCRD received 24 rainwater rebate applications for 2022, about 40 per cent of the fund allocations for the year. Every week, about five to six residents sign up for their monthly water update, bringing the total subscriptions up to nearly 500.
Supply projects under way
Staff also presented their second update on the construction status of the Church Road well field project. All archaeological permits have now been issued to the SCRD, the report said, and the contractor is adhering to the permit requirements of routine archaeological monitoring. At the time of the May 12 report, all costs were tracking within the allocated budgets and available overall project contingency, but “due to global supply chain issues, there have been delays in fabrication and delivery of some key components of the water treatment plant which may impact the commissioning date.”
The upcoming schedule of work includes the waterline installation on Reed Road through late June, then final paving in mid-July. The three watermains on Elphinstone Avenue will be constructed between mid-June and mid-July. In late July, Elphinstone Avenue and Church Road will have their final paving done. Work on the water treatment plant will continue through late August.
The next project status update report will be included in a July 2022 committee of the whole agenda.
During his water supply update, Rosenboom also reported two production wells for the Langdale well field were expected to be drilled starting the week of May 16 (and could be visible from the Langdale ferry terminal). After the drilling, the potential yield will be reported, and the SCRD could begin a water licence application and potentially submit it in the third quarter of the year.
The SCRD is also having conversations with a private well owner and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) about whether an arrangement can be reached to use a private well in addition to the Eastbourne water supply project. Rosenboom said they hope to confirm their options later this year.
A feasibility study for the Gray Creek water treatment upgrades has begun, and results are expected in 2024. A two-year monitoring program will study whether, given potential climate change impacts, there's enough water in the creek to be drawn during summer months.
The future of water
As water supply and metering projects are underway, the SCRD wants to hear input from its residents. As the regional district is creating a water strategy, and collaborating with shíshálh Nation, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw and other local governments, it is looking for “ideas and concerns related to long-term water supply, management of infrastructure such as water treatment plants and water mains, efficient use of water in our communities, and the protection of valuable water sources such as Chapman Lake,” a May 9 press release said.
A survey launched on May 9, and can be found at letstalk.scrd.ca/water-strategy. Roundtable discussions will take place in June.
“...now is the time to have your voice heard on how to deal with these issues long-term” Rosenboom said in the release. “We hope that in the coming weeks, our community will take the opportunity to be part of the Water Strategy development, get involved and help shape the future of one of the most critical issues for our growing communities.”
An open house will be held on May 25 at the Seaside Centre (5790 Teredo Street, Sechelt) from 3 to 6 p.m. Presentations will be at 4 and 5 p.m.
A draft of the water strategy is expected to be presented to the public in early 2023.