Senior levels of government have approved the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD)'s request to reduce the amount of water released into Chapman Creek in the hopes of extending the lake's supply for SCRD needs.
"We have received permission [both federal and provincial] to reduce environmental flow needs for Chapman Creek by 20 per cent, from 200 litres per second to 160 litres. This will begin tomorrow [Oct. 20] night at 6 p.m. and will remain in place until such time that Stage 4 is rescinded or until salmon are confirmed to be migrating upstream," SCRD manager of infrastructure told Coast Reporter via email mid-day on Oct. 19. That adjustment will allow more water from Chapman Lake to be available for community use and further extends the water supply.
Water use drops
Users have heeded the calls to reduce demands on the water system.
Daily usage on the system dipped below the 9.5 million litre per day mark between Oct. 11 and 17 with data unavailable for Oct. 15. For three of those days, use hovered around the 9 million litre mark, according to a press release from the SCRD Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) issued Oct. 18.
The SCRD has been seeking that reduction since early this month, following the activation of the EOC on Sept. 27 and the Oct. 17 declaration of a state of local emergency (SOLE) related to drought conditions in the system’s watershed. (In early September the regional district reported usage at 11.5 and 12 million litres per day.)
Emergency Orders in place
SOLE orders were also issued by shíshálh Nation, and District of Sechelt. All three orders stated they were issued as “this drought requires prompt coordination of actions and special regulation of persons or property to protect the health, safety or welfare of people or to limit damage to property,” and call for all users to continue to conserve water remain in place.
Under the SOLE, the SCRD also issued an order banning use of water from that system for number of industrial and commercial uses, effective Oct. 18. That ban covers producing alcohol for resale, packaging of water for sale, maintaining pools, hot tubs, steam baths, or saunas, growing or producing non-medical cannabis and the manufacture, transport, processing, cleaning, installation or repair of concrete, cement, asphalt, gravel, or aggregate. It was put in place due to what the SCRD called the “imminent risk” that the supply from that system could be exhausted.
How local operations are affected
Nick Farrer, founder of West Sechelt’s Bricker Cider Company, stated his firm’s operations would be affected as the cidery and tasting room are on Chapman system water, but that well water is used in all the orchard operations. “Cider production uses minimal water compared to beer, so it’s Persephone [Brewing] and Batch  that will suffer the most,” was Farrer’s summation on the impacts for the Coast alcohol production sector.
"Our kitchen does run from city water though so if restaurants were to be closed we would be affected there significantly. As the order stands though we are business as usual. Cider is produced solely with apple juice, so we don't need any water to make the product directly. However tanks need to be cleaned and sanitized and that is where we use water, albeit well water."
As of Oct.18, a message on Batch 44 Brewery and Kitchen's website homepage stated “We at Batch 44 would like to thank all of our customers, local and not, for supporting us through these tough times. We will continue to keep Batch 44 a safe place for you to enjoy.”
The operations in Sechelt of Central Coast Concrete, Swansons Concrete, and Lehigh Hanson Materials are not affected by SOLE water restriction as all use sources other than Chapman system water.
hiwus Warren Paull of the shíshálh Nation, which purchased Swansons Ready Mix Concrete company in 2019 through its economic development company, Tsain-ko Development Corporation, stated “We are fortunate that we do not use District water in the operation of our concrete company, but our hearts certainly go out to those companies who are now forced to suspend operations due to the water situation … the forecast of rain this weekend will hopefully spell relief for all concerned.”
Swimming lessons cancelled
The Sechelt Aquatic Centre is closed as of Wednesday and swimming lessons are cancelled and there will be pro-rated refunds for the cancelled classes. Winter swim lesson registration is slated to open Dec. 7. The Gibsons and Pender Harbour pools remain open as they are not on the Chapman system. The Gibsons pool hours have been extended and the Pender Harbour pool will keep its regular hours.
The EOC reported that water levels at both Chapman and Edwards continue to drop but that siphons remain operational, moving water from the middle of the lakes into Chapman Creek to the water treatment plant. The SCRD is monitoring the siphons regularly for any potential disruption due to overnight freezing temperatures.
Work also continues work on other priority actions to help secure water supply through early November. These include repositioning of siphons at Edwards Lake. The SCRD requested and is awaiting permission from B.C. Parks and staff are working on the logistics of adjusting angles on the siphon, which would allow for more water to be drawn from the lake.
Staff are also confident that a limited amount of water can be drawn from the Church Road well field with the use of temporary plumbing in the water treatment plant. Work on this temporary supply has begun and will take a couple of weeks to complete.
Emergency Management BC confirmed to Coast Reporter that the SCRD, shíshálh Nation, and District of Sechelt were the first areas to put a SOLE in place related to the summer/fall 2022 drought impacting the south Coast and Vancouver Island areas. It also stated it held one-on-one meetings with each of those three local governments about their needs and eligible supports available through their programs.
The Chapman system serves approximately 10,000 properties and 90 per cent of the population of the Coast, including residents of Electoral Areas B (Halfmoon Bay), D (Roberts Creek), E (Elphinstone), F (West Howe Sound), District of Sechelt, and shíshálh Nation. It has been on Stage 4 water restrictions since Aug. 31.