There’s plenty of it! Right now. From all reports there are great early season snow conditions in the mountains, and clearly storm water management is the challenge at this time of year.
Due to its topography, the Chapman Watershed is less snowpack sensitive than many others, and summer rainfall patterns have a much bigger impact on our reserve capacity than snowpack. There is widespread concern that last summer’s drought conditions will become the norm, and the Regional District is moving forwards with a number of initiatives to address our summer water supply challenges. Some of them are laid out in previous posts here, but a mid-winter review of the issue that was on all of our minds last August might be a good idea.
A reminder that the background for the initiatives below should be seen in the context of the 2013 Comprehensive Regional Water Plan, which can be accessed here: http://www.scrd.ca/Comprehensive-Regional-Water-Plan
Water Metering – Water metering is a widely-accepted conservation best practice, and conservative estimates anticipate a 20% reduction in demand once we are all able to track our water use more efficiently. The target date for completion of installation in all Rural Areas, including Roberts Creek is 2016, and 2017 in Sechelt. By that point, all Regional Water users will be metered. This intensive demand management approach is anticipated to save the taxpayer $7 Million over 25 years. Have you got questions about the program? Here is an informative FAQ sheet: http://www.scrd.ca/Water-Metering
Chapman Lake Water Supply Expansion Project – This involves deepening the channel above the dam at the mouth of Chapman Lake, allowing more water to be accessed in times of drought. This is a significant project, with ecological concerns and engineering challenges that will need to be addressed as it moves forwards. A Budget proposal will be coming forwards in early February.
Drought Management Plan – A review of the DMP is planned for the new year. The DMP outlines implementation and permitted uses during the different water conservation Stages, and although a public review took place in 2014, it was felt that any learnings from the summer of 2015 should be incorporated into the Plan moving forwards. This review will likely take place in early winter.
Rainwater Harvesting Rebate Program – In October, the Board received a report on the viability and impact of a potential rainwater cistern rebate program. The report can be found on Pages 8-11 of this Infrastructure Committee Agenda: http://www.scrd.ca/files/File/Administration/Agendas/2015/2015-NOV-05%20ISC%20Agenda%20Package.pdf Decisions around the program were deferred to Budget discussions and pending the Drought Management Plan review.
Local Aquifer Study – This is an examination of the potential for local aquifers as further drinking water sources for the long term. It would be a two year “desk and drilling” study to deterring the most promising aquifer locations relative to the Chapman service area. While the project would be contracted out, its oversight of the would require a level of staff capacity that does not currently exist, and in December the Board received a report on staffing approaches, along with the consideration of an option to defer the Study for a year. http://www.scrd.ca/files/File/Administration/Agendas/2015/2015-DEC-03%20ISC%20Agenda%20Package.pdf (Pgs 42-44)
It should be noted that all of the above initiatives are subject to Budget considerations by the Board which will take place in early February and early March. Exact timing and agendas will be posted on the SCRD website.
Further, Regional District Planning Department Staff have on their 2016 work plan to collaborate with other local governments with regards to sustainable land use principles that can be implemented coastwide . These smart-growth principles are laid out on pages 36 and 37 of the coast’s We Envision Sustainability Plan, and would impact not only water use, but transportation, agriculture, solid waste, housing, and other areas. At present, communities’ respective Official Community Plans serve this land-use role, but it is felt that there is room for a more integrated approach. Historically, both a Regional Growth Strategy and a Land and Resource Management Plan (Provincial-level processes) have not gained traction on the coast, and this is an attempt to facilitate enhanced vision and cooperation between the 4 local governments.
As you can see, a diverse range of approaches are being taken, both on the supply and demand sides of the water equation.
UPDATE Jan. 30:
After receiving this staff report at a recent Infrastructure Services Committee meeting http://www.scrd.ca/files/File/Administration/Agendas/2016/2016-JAN-14%20ISC%20Agenda%20Package.pdf (starting page 48) the Board has asked staff to explore more changes to the Drought Management Plan to further limit lawn watering, and separate out landscape uses from food production uses for different treatment with regards to Regional water. There would be a public engagement piece to the changes being considered.
At the same Infrastructure Committee Meeting (Agenda above, page 66), staff reported on water Demand Management Programs, including a cistern rebate program. It was indicated that rebate funds would be more effectively applied to indoor uses like efficient washing machines. Because of Bylaw, Building Code, and market changes, the Board accepted a recommendation that the popular Toilet Rebate Program be phased out over the next 2 years. Further Demand Management programs are to be considered following the installation of water meters. At this point, on site rainwater storage solutions will be up to property owners.