Chapman Water: How did we get here?

Back in the 1980’s, experts assured local government that Chapman Lake could provide enough water for 50,000 residents. Time and climate change have proved them wrong. Normal is in the rearview mirror and we are dealing with circumstances that were never envisioned.

By the early 2000’s it was clear that we needed to expand the water supply. But there wasn’t a regional water plan until 2013. The 2014-18 board pinned its hopes on digging a trench to allow  Chapman Lake to be drawn down further.* This request was denied in December 2018 by BC Parks, and the province ordered us to develop other water sources.

(This makes sense, by the way. Being 95% reliant on one little creek is a Bad Idea.)

One piece of good news is that even though the SCRD’s population has grown in the last 15 years, our total water demand has decreased. This is due to leak repair and conservation initiatives (such as low flush toilets). And it means that we did not have to expand the water treatment plant, as was anticipated a decade ago.

When we finish installing water meters in Sechelt in 2023, we expect more savings from leak detection and conservation. And at that point we will be able to charge volumetrically‚ÄĒin other words, make the water hogs pay. (8% of residential water users use 40% of our water.)

Why is it taking so long to get Church Road wellfield hooked up?

We waited over two years for a water license from the province, despite promises from the Minister and a barrage of pleas from us. I could write a whole blog post on this, but let’s move on.

When we FINALLY got the license at the end of 2021, staff put together an accelerated plan to have the well ready for September 2022. And then we were hit by global supply chain problems. The variable speed pumps for the well are operated by microchips similar to the ones in new cars. And there is a global shortage. So the pumps aren’t ready and won’t be until early 2023.

What Next?

We are building a new well at Langdale (you may have seen the drill rig in the upper parking lot of the ferry terminal). That is scheduled to come online in 2025.

In winter and at Stage 4, we suck down about 10 million litres of water a day. Church Road will add about 50% more. When Langdale comes online, we will have finally enough additional water to supply the system indefinitely even if we get ZERO from Chapman Creek. These wells will only operate in summer, when we need them, but they could be brought online quickly in an emergency.

The SCRD has also drilled a test well at Maryanne West Park (behind Cedar Grove Elementary), and we have a water license for Gray Creek (in Tuwanek), where we’re developing further surface water.

And then what?

We have just appointed a new Water Supply Advisory Committee to look at the long term picture. We need to investigate additional sources, and also the feasibility of tying North and South Pender water systems to the Chapman system to provide additional resiliency. And we need to decide whether and how far to expand water service. Right now residences beyond Langdale and above the highway in Roberts Creek are on their own wells. (There is also a regional growth strategy underway.)

Why not limit development?

It’s certainly going to be discussed again, believe me, but it’s not simple.  READ POST

* And if we had built that trench to draw the lake down, we’d be in exactly the same place we are now with the use of the siphon. With not enough water. Not to mention we’d have spent millions.

Posted by Donna