Water quality and quantity issues are reaching a pinnacle in Golden and Area A, and at the September 12 Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) Area A Local Advisory Committee (LAC) meeting, those concerns were expressed by a full gallery of people.
A presentation by ecologist Annette Luttermann of A.L. Ecologic opened the floor for discussion between the LAC and concerned citizens.
The presentation began with Luttermann explaining the implications of allowing a water bottling facility to open in the Town of Golden, explaining that aquifers act like a sponge, and as one of those aquifers is drained, it pulls water from surrounding areas, which could lead to even bigger issues down the road.
“From my perspective, as a resident of Golden, this would be a super bad idea,” Luttermann said. “My knee-jerk reaction was ‘no way, this is crazy.'”
The presentation included information about the aquifer Golden draws its water from for the municipality, and she explained that issues with aquifers are not clear cut, and many problems could arise from adding an additional strain on one aquifer, affecting others around it.
“If we’re going ahead and making decisions in a disjointed fragmented fashion, we’re going to be in big trouble… It’s a very complex issue,” Luttermann said.
Once a company acquires a provincial water licence, it can be very difficult to rescind the licence. Right now, GoldenKey Investments Group has drilled a test well on Fisher Road in Golden, and will be monitoring for recharge rates and other parametres to show the province when applying for the water licence.
“The licences will be issued mainly on the basis of volume,” Luttermann said, adding that Golden has had a particularly wet summer season.
The direction of flow from surrounding aquifers leads right to the municipal aquifer, labelled Aquifer 456. Water travels north, which means Aquifer 450 in Nicholson leads to 456 in Golden. Additionally, water travels downhill, another concern from potential landfill water quality exceedances.
In addition, the CSRD has been recommended to approve $25,000 for a feasibility study to see if enough community support exists to implement a community water system in Nicholson. In June, the CSRD board endorsed staff’s recommendation to apply for an Infrastructure Planning Grant for the maximum available amount of $10,000 from the province to conduct a community water system feasibility study for Nicholson. The results of the feasibility study will provide information about treatment options and cost projections for the CSRD to bring forward to the community in consideration of establishing a service area to fund a community water system.
South of Golden, the community of Nicholson and Habart reside on Aquifer 450, and Canyon Creek resides on Aquifer 454.
A group called Water Guardians of Golden has formed as a result of the potential water bottling facility, and has spoken up at Town of Golden council meetings and at the LAC.
Water Guardians of Golden member Amber Van Drielen encouraged supporting Area A director Karen Cathcart as she proposes the CSRD board supports a policy for Area A that does not support extraction of fresh water resources for the purposes of commercial bottled water sales. In Cathcart’s proposal, which she takes to the board meeting on September 19, she refers to the Sunshine Coast Regional District water bottling policy, where the community has sent a strong message to the province against commercial water bottling.
Van Drielen also hopes that local government officials will vote in favour of a resolution at the upcoming Union of British Columbia Municipalities meeting, which calls for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development to immediately cease licensing and extraction of groundwater for commercial bottling and/or bulk water exports from aquifers.
“This is more complex than just water bottling. We need water for our ecosystem health, and we need water for our human resources,” Luttermann said. “If there’s people in out region that don’t have good drinking water, we should not be allowing people to take it away and make massive profits on it. We should be sharing it.”