SCRD directors are feeling cautiously optimistic after receiving a report on the results of the test well drilling that took place last fall. At the January 24 Infrastructure Services Committee, Marta Green of Associated Environmental Consultants walked us through the four sites that were investigated.
The big win was drilling on Church Road at Granthams. It’s recommended we develop a “well field” of two wells there, which should supply about 50% of the SCRD’s current water deficit at a cost of approx. $3 million. The existing Granthams well would be taken offline, saving several hundred thousand dollars in upgrades needed to bring it up to provincial standards. Another plus would be new pipes to replace some of the aging watermains in Granthams. The board voted to go ahead with a water license application and preliminary design and costing.
The second site recommended for further investigation is Grey Creek (just south of Tuwanek). Although the SCRD’s test well did not find water, we know there’s a large aquifer there because nearby Target Marine has several very productive wells. The board voted to go ahead with further investigation.
I asked staff if adding wells at widely dispersed locations, such as Grey Creek and Granthams, would improve the resiliency of our water system and they said yes, definitely. Right now we are roughly 95% dependent on the Chapman Lake system; adding other sources would give us many more options in case of emergency, or even for routine maintenance.
The Mahan Road site did produce a good flow, but pumping at that well had a very small but measurable impact on other wells in the area. Another report on this well will be coming back to the SCRD late this year, but no further steps will be taken to develop a well until the Town and the SCRD have reached agreement on protection of the Gibsons aquifer.
Finally, test drilling at Dusty Road found a very abundant water supply, but the consultants did not recommend any further development of the site due to possible impacts from the expanding LeHigh gravel pit. The report states: “The aquifer at this location is non-confined, which means it is not protected by an impermeable clay layer on top of the aquifer and is therefore vulnerable to contamination.”
So the good news is that our groundwater options look good. The less good news is that developing them will take a while. Our best estimate is that the Granthams wells could be online in 2022. This is almost certainly much faster than a new reservoir (report coming up in February) but we could be facing some more long, dry summers in the meantime.
For those of you who want all the details, the full report is in the January 24 Infrastructure Services Committee agenda (big PDF file).