How can we in 2017 be in the same straits that we were back in 2015 (or 2012, 2009, 2003)? While the timing is different (6 or so weeks later in the season), and some of the baseline variables have shifted a bit (varied consumption patterns, more creek flow for fish, meter savings) the broad pattern is the same.
The fact remains that after a long hot summer we have not had the typical Fall rains that replenish our reserves in the top 3 meters of Chapman Lake. Weather predictions do not include significant rainfall ahead and the forecasts themselves have been acknowledged to be less accurate this year due to climate change. As a result SCRD Staff have declared Stage 4, banning all outdoor water use and have deployed and tested a syphon system to access the further reaches of the lake. Of note is that rainfall at sea level does not necessarily mean it is raining in the high reaches of the watershed.
While we adapt to and consider this familiar scenario, it begs the question “What has the SCRD been up to these past couple of years?” Believe me, after making a very difficult decision around water supply in 2015 I am very frustrated to be in a situation (temporary syphon deployment) that would not have been necessary if the Chapman Access Channel Deepening Project had been completed during this long dry summer building season.
Some of the ecosystem research done for the drawdown project
Here is a partial list of what SCRD Board and Staff have been moving on with regards to the Chapman Lake Access project:
-First Nations consultation
-Approving Project Financing
-Engaging an Engineering firm
-Commissioning an Environmental Project Assessment
-Commissioning Creek Flow Assessment as per new Water Sustainability Act
-Renewing Permit for Emergency Syphon Deployment
-Correspondence and Meetings with BC Parks, FLNRO (Water Branch), and shishálh Staff
-Discussions with our local MLA
-Meeting last week with Provincial Environment Minister (who oversees BC Parks)
This work is in concurrent with overseeing water meter installation, leak detection, groundwater source study, and maintaining and renewing our existing water infrastructure.
There has been an understandable, if frustrating, lack of provincial inertia due to the change in government. As it stands now, we are awaiting a BC Parks Process to “pursue either a park boundary modification or a re-designation of the park area before a decision on the permit amendment application can be made” as per a letter sent to the Board from the Ministry in March of this year.
Meanwhile, there is a similar project above Campbell River, which includes enhancing that area’s water supply with a tunnel and a potential 14 meter lake drawdown in a Class A Provincial Park. It continues apace in conjunction with a very large BC Hydro project.
In 2013, 30 or so boundary amendments/area re-designations were made to Provincial Parks were made by cabinet, many for industrial projects, pipelines, transmission wires, and resource roads. I would like to think that drinking water, fire protection, health, salmon and food growing are priorities of this new government along with the protection of ecologically sensitive areas, particularly since this eventuality was anticipated in the 1997 Tetrahedron Park Management Plan.
As in 2015, I am convinced that the medium-term source development approach with the smallest ecological footprint continues to be the addition of up to 1 million cubic meters of capacity (an additional 5 meters of potential lake drawdown) “only be utilized during periods of drought”. This is for a community that uses between 10-25 million litres of treated regional water per day. Clearly this approach needs to be combined with Conservation and Demand Management initiatives. Keep in mind that we drink less than 3% of the water that comes from our treatment plant.
Long term adaptation (note the careful avoidance of the term “solutions”) will revolve around source location, treatment facilities, transmission costs, land use decisions, conservation rates and climate change impacts. It will need to be considered in light of the fiscal impacts of Solid Waste, Transit, Parks, Bike Lanes and other SCRD function costs as we work to build a resilient Sunshine Coast.
Time to turn off the outdoor faucets and bookmark the weather forecast
Looking for some of the Reports mentioned above? Try here As always (except Thanksgiving) do swing by the Gumboot on a Saturday morning to talk about this or anything else on your mind.
Farther down this page you will find much more writing on this topic. It should be noted that these are my personal views, and not necessarily those of the SCRD Board as a whole.