As an ever more dire water crisis draws on for most in the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD), Gibsons started pumping water from Zone 3 (in the upper Gibsons area) into the Henry Road reservoir last week for the SCRD’s use.
“It's going well, we have some flexibility to provide a bit more water without affecting the town,” says Emanuel Machado, chief administrative officer for Town of Gibsons, adding that there’s ongoing monitoring of the aquifer itself.
Where the current supply is about 300 cubic metres per day, Gibsons council has approved up to 1,000 cubic metres a day, and Gibsons expects the amount of water flowing to the SCRD to increase in coming days as the system gets tuned up.
“It's not just something you turn valve on or a switch, there's adjustments that need to be made,” explained Machado.
Well within sustainable yield
The town has been on Stage 3 restrictions since Sept. 1 in anticipation of supplying the district with water as part of the governments’ water supply agreement.
Should dry conditions persist, for Gibsons’s part, the town could keep supplying the SCRD, said Machado. “From what we're seeing, we can keep this going for the next few weeks or even a few months because it is over well within our parameters for sustainable yield.
“We’ve got a pretty fair amount of safety threshold there, both in terms of pumping capacity and water availability.”
The situation for the recipients is far more dire, with the siphons activated at Edwards Lake and Chapman Lake critically low, the SCRD can only guarantee water supply into the beginning of November and is looking at further emergency options.
Where’s the limit?
Asked if Gibsons might need to move to Stage 4, Machado said that would be a decision for council but that they don’t see the need at the moment to do that. “We have to find the right balance between a provision of water and the ability for the town to operate. But that's a conversation that we haven't had yet.” Should the need arise, a special council meeting would need to be convened as the current council’s last meeting was this week. The first meeting of the new council is Nov. 1.
Some of the water constraints for Gibsons arise as the town has an annual draw limit from the aquifer under its provincial water licence (which is why the SCRD has to return the water once its supplies refill). Gibsons has applied for permission from the province to increase the amount of water drawn from the aquifer and expects to receive it soon, said a Town fact sheet released Oct. 5.
An aquifer mapping study released earlier this year predicted that Aquifer 560 could support 10,000 people – double Gibsons’s population of just under 5,000.
The town itself consumes about 1,000 cubic metres daily, said Machado, with consumption “staying pretty much the same throughout the summer.”
A decade into water metering every property in Gibsons (an undertaking that ran 2009 to 2012 according to Machado) and average daily consumption for a person in Gibsons is lower than in the regional district, said Machado. In that decade water pricing has also increased substantially, he said, “and the community has supported that.”
“We've asked them to pay more and use less and that has, in fact, happened,” he said. “The benefit has come to the aquifer, where 10 years into it, we're seeing higher levels of the aquifer than we had even in 2012.”
This said, efforts on the part of Chapman water system users have seen supply use drop from 20,000 cubic metres per day in July to 10,500 cubic metres per day (as of Oct. 5, the target is 9,500) in late September, according to the SCRD.
No tickets issued yet
At the Oct. 4 regular council meeting, Machado told Gibsons council that the Town hasn’t issued any tickets for violating water restrictions. He also says any leaks the Town is aware of have been fixed, though there’s a couple of smaller property leaks they’re working on with owners.
As a parting thought, talking with Coast Reporter, Machado noted that they’re also grappling with a rapidly changing environment. “We're dealing with a climate that is different from the climate we had last year or two years ago,” said Machado. “It's not a simple question, just of finding more water, getting a bigger pump. We are dealing with a very challenging climate situation.”