North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure will meet with senior staff by early fall to discuss if a change to the Cowichan Aquatic Centre’s maintenance schedule is warranted.
“Quite frankly, we understand why people are concerned,” CAO Dave Devana said last week.
Some residents believe it is wasteful to flush 1.7 million litres of water from the aquatic centre’s pools in the middle of the driest time of the year.
Others, however, see the benefits of routine maintenance and regular sanitation.
With more summer droughts looming, citizens urged the municipality to rethink the schedule in attempt to at least use less water when perhaps conservation is needed most.
“I very much appreciate the people who are out there watching and they’re very concerned about any use of water,” Lefebure said. “There are real definite benefits to the municipality to conserve water and to have a culture of conservation.”
Coun. Al Siebring noted that despite public perception, there is no water shortage in the municipality.
“We don’t have a water shortage when it comes to the aquifer,” Siebring said. “It’s healthy.”
It may well be, Devana noted, but the longterm health of the aquifer is unknown.
“The province is currently studying the relationship between the river and the aquifer and that’s ongoing,” Devana said. “We’ve been monitoring the aquifer for 40 years. Things are going to evolve, we’re going to know more and hopefully that will change our management practices in some way. Or not. We know what we know and we don’t know what we don’t know.”
In the meantime, Devana and Lefebure will sit down with the pool’s managers to access the plausibility of a schedule shift.
“Is there another time of year that we could do the maintenance program that would not collide with the late August timeline, which is probably the worst possible timeline? It’s the best possible timeline from the operation point of view but the worst time from a water perception point of view. That’s something we’ll discuss,” Devana said.
But it’s not that easy as employees’ collective bargaining agreements include shutdown conditions so it’s not just a simple date switch.
“There’s a lot involved here because employees understandably aren’t working when there’s a shutdown, there’s been agreements about that so if we are going to change it, it’s going to require work,” Devana said.
“We will report back after we’ve had time to think about it. I’m sure we’ll be able to come back to you in September.”
Playing fields will die without enough water
Looking at water as it relates to the Cowichan Aquatic Centre isn’t the only thing on North Cowichan’s list these days.
Coun. Joyce Behnsen ran into a municipal staffer at Evans Park the other day who said he was monitoring the effectiveness of the watering program.
“Ernie [Mansueti, parks and recreation director] has been doing a lot to try to minimize the amount of water but maximize its effectiveness in maintaining the fields,” Devana said.
Council has received criticism from the community for its green playing fields when the rest of the grass in the municipality is brown.
To ensure adequate drainage in the wet season, the fields are planted on sand as opposed to regular dirt. Grass on top of dirt goes dormant when left unwatered whereas grass on top of sand just dies.
“We’ve got to irrigate these sand-based fields and we’re trying to find the best way to do it,” Devana said. “We’ve changed a lot of things in the last little while to try to reduce our water use but not let the asset deteriorate to the point where it’s no longer good anymore and we need to do that because if we let these fields deteriorate then we are going to be replacing the fields and are you all wanting to move to artificial turf? I’m sure that’s not what you want.”