Reservoirs vs. Aquifers

This graphic shows the size of the proposed Site B reservoir compared to Trail Bay Mall in Sechelt.

Following some coverage in the local papers about a manmade reservoir proposal, a few people took me to task for “voting against water.” Hell, no, I am NOT voting against water. But I am voting against a huge and unnecessary waste of tax dollars on a gargantuan pond that would float a fleet of ferries, but still leave us almost completely reliant on one small creek for our water supply.

On November 21, directors received a presentation and engineering report about reservoir options, weighing the pros and cons of four sites. Two are manmade reservoirs that would be built on land behind the airport (Sites A and B), and two are dams on alpine lakes outside Tetrahedron Park (Sites C3 and C4).

I wasn’t in the least surprised that a company whose business is building large manmade reservoirs gave us a report recommending that we build a large manmade reservoir. But I was truly boggled and disturbed that this engineering report did not contain a single mention of climate change, and ignored the GHG emissions that would be generated in building the largest civil engineering project ever undertaken on the Sunshine Coast. The carbon cost of shifting over 2 million cubic metres of dirt and rock was NOT included in their Environmental Assessment.

Here are some of my other concerns about the proposal.

  • Site B is EXPENSIVE. The first estimate, which was supposedly accurate to plus or minus 50% was $23 million. The second estimate is $53 million, and that doesn’t address ongoing staffing and operating costs.
  • Did I say EXPENSIVE?  The estimate for the Church Road well field is just over $3 million*, and it will reduce our current water deficit by 50%—the same amount as the Site B reservoir. We could drill another dozen well fields for the price of this elephant, and have enough water to keep us going for centuries.
  • It’s SLOW. Estimated development time is up to four years before a shovel even hits the ground.
  • There are BETTER ALTERNATIVES. The coast has an abundance of aquifers which are recharged every winter by rain in the mountains. These aquifers, like the Gibsons aquifer, are essentially slow moving underground rivers, and they deliver high quality water.
  • It DOES NOT DIVERSIFY OUR SUPPLY. Chapman is one fairly small creek, which is under stress from logging and climate change. Right now we’re 95% dependent on it. We need to diversify our water sources so that we have options if there’s an emergency that damages our water system. Wells that are geographically dispersed would maximize our ability to maintain water service and fight fires.
  • Finally, none of these reports have evaluated the LONG TERM HEALTH OF THE CHAPMAN WATERSHED. What options are best to support the environment, especially our stressed salmon run?


*Later updated to $9 million with all associated water mains and pump stations.

Posted by Donna