Steps to a New Well

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen a post something like this:

“My cousin Wayne borrowed a backhoe and scrounged up some pipe and he dug a well over one weekend for $100 including a case of beer for his buddies. How come those morons at the SCRD can’t get a single well hooked up already?”

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. If there was a fast and easy solution to our water supply problem, we would have done it years ago.

So, these are the steps local government has to take to add a new well to our Chapman water system. I’ve probably missed some items, but these are the ones I remember.

Budget Proposal – Staff don’t work on any project until it’s approved and there’s funding for it. Budget proposals are drafted in the fall and approved by the board in March of each year as part of the annual budget.

Sourcing Consultants – We aren’t hydrological experts, so we seek out and hire companies that have the skills and equipment. Staff in Purchasing put out a Request for Proposals and review the bids to chose the vendor who provides the best value for our money.

Desktop Study – The first step is to review geological information and locate places that we’re likely to find water if we drill. These locations should be on a property we own or can lease, and close to electrical service and existing water mains. A desktop study in 2017 identified a bunch of potential well sites.

Test well drilling at Maryanne West Park in September 2020.

Test Well Drilling – We hire a drilling company which brings its drill rig to the coast for a few weeks to drill test wells. So far all but one of our test wells found water, but the volume of water varies quite a bit from site to site. Higher volume is better, doh. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to evaluate the drilling results and decide which wells should be our highest priority.

Data Collection – The province requires us to collect a full year of data to show that pumping water from the test well doesn’t negatively impact nearby creeks or other wells, even at the driest time of year.

Engineering – The design work for the new well and associated infrastructure has to be completed.

Water License Application – When we have all the technical data, we complete a provincial water license application. Processing times are typically over a year.

Health Approval – We also need approval from Vancouver Coastal Health. I honestly don’t know what’s involved or where this step comes in, but it’s required for the provision of drinking water to the public.

Loan Approval – We need to get elector approval to borrow money to pay for the well, either through a public referendum or an Alternate Approval Process (AAP). Setting up an AAP and running it takes a minimum of several months, but we can do that while we’re waiting for the water license.

Procurement – Yay, we have our license! (I wish. This is theoretical.) Now we need to put the project to tender and hire contractors.

Construction – There can be a lot of this. In the case of Church Road, we have drilled two wells, but we need to build a well head building with water treatment, build a pump station, and then add a kilometre of new water main to connect the new well to our nearest reservoir and distribution hub. Perhaps 8-10 months of construction. And since we’re digging up roads, we have to work with MOTI to schedule the work.

Testing and Commissioning – It’s strongly recommended that we test everything before we turn the valve on full. Just saying.

Finally, while all this is going on, Water staff are still keeping our other wells and water systems in operation. Here are all nine systems.


Posted by Donna