The 2013 Comprehensive Regional Water Plan is hopelessly out of date after only eight years, and that’s a wonderful thing! I’ll tell you why.
The Chapman water treatment plant was commissioned in 2004, and by 2009 it was operating at over its design capacity during peak times in summer. The 2013 plan recommends expanding the plant at a cost of $6.4 million and then expanding it again in 2028.
However, average daily demand has dropped and an expansion of the plant is no longer needed, despite population increase and more severe summer droughts. The biggest reason for that is that citizens are conserving water, especially during the summer. Please congratulate yourselves! The water conservation measures you take do make a difference, and they have saved us all a big whack of money.
Two other factors contributing to lower water usage are the water metering program, which has helped us find and repair leaks in the system, and the Town of Gibsons’ decision to move Upper Gibsons off SCRD water and onto the Town’s water supply.
The water plan is also out of date because of its focus on trying to suck more water out of Chapman Lake and Chapman Creek. Plans to drain the lake down via blasting a deeper channel were rightfully killed in early 2019, and an expensive above ground reservoir is also off the table.
We don’t need them because groundwater investigations show that we have abundant aquifers. New wells will produce high quality water and allow us to move away from our 95% dependence on one water source.
Staff produced a very informative 2021 Spring Update on water usage. The chart above also shows that if the full implementation of water meters produces a 20% reduction in water use (which is a conservative estimate), we should have enough water from two well projects to take us through to 2031.
One other chart was illuminating. Most households in the SCRD use less than 200,000 litres of water per year. (My two person household used 62,000 L last year.) At the same time, a small number of households (9%) use a huge amount of water. You can see in the chart below that 60% of households consume a quarter of our water, while a mere 9% of households use over one third of our water. Obviously we need to target those super thirsty property owners to either reduce their consumption or pay for their disproportionate water use.
The 2013 water plan was the first attempt to bring together all available information about Sunshine Coast water systems and water needs and formulate a strategy. It’s got lots of flaws, but it was an essential starting point. A substantial update to the plan is coming.
Being elected to local government can be a very frustrating experience. Most people run for office because they want to see change, and even when you put new wheels in motion, change is SLOW to come. One disappointment is that we weren’t able to get the Church Road well field in place this year, so we are facing another summer that we might have to go to Stage 3 or Stage 4 water restrictions.
Keep your fingers crossed, but bear in mind that we are making substantial progress.