Honeymoon Bay property owners will be taking to the road soon in an attempt to convince their neighbours to buy into a new well that would secure a reliable source of water for the west Cowichan community.
Dir. Ian Morrison said he and the Cowichan Valley Regional District have been working towards that end, after the area had a problem in 2014.
"We got into a pickle last year. We weren’t able to maintain fire flows over a few days. But it was later in the year, more August or September," he said.
Morrison and his daughter stopped cars last summer to conduct a successful information campaign about the need for conservation.
But last year’s crisis led to action, he said.
"Because of that we had a community meeting where we discussed metering and the like. In addition, the engineering staff at the CVRD along with me and a few others acknowledged that we have a water supply issue. For 360 days out of the year we’re probably in okay shape. But, residents, myself included, are frustrated at having to go to Stage 3 watering restrictions, especially this early," he said.
Practical work started. The CVRD contacted a well driller.
"They drilled three test holes and they found a gusher. That’s fantastic news. We’ve got a really productive well with high, high quality water. It’s in the range of 240 imperial gallons per minute."
Morrison held a public meeting on June 20 to talk about that find. Results from a survey gave a "very strong indication" that residents favour moving forward.
A Community Petition Process will soon be getting underway.
That process is a means of authorization to increase fees and borrow money on behalf of the community to complete this half million dollar project: developing the well, tying it in, connecting the pipes in the ground to the existing treatment facility and water tank. Various options were presented to residents in June. "The community decided to poll themselves, to get the homeowners within the system to sign the petition," which will then go to the CVRD.
"It’s not a CVRD-led initiative, it’s a community-led initiative. It’s one of the tools available under the Local Government Act for elector consent," he said.
Morrison said he’s pleased to see some highly motivated Honeymoon Bay residents willing to do the leg work.
"I would suggest that a good portion of the community water users would like to ensure that they’ve got a consistent and reliable water source into the future," he said.
Morrison said that Area G went through a similar petition process for a water system upgrade project and although that project was on a much larger scale, it followed the same petition procedure successfully.
"What we’re talking about is around $12-$13 a month per property; in the range of $150 per year."
Honeymoon Bay, like every other area, has been watching water levels all this year.
Morrison said that Ashburnham Creek is normally still flowing into Cowichan Lake at Lily Beach at the end of June.
"This year, Ashburnham Creek had gone subsurface from the shore on March 13," he said, arguing it’s time to re-assess the idea of The Wet Coast. "We need water to survive. But we’ve got into the habit of thinking it’s literally falling from the sky."
However, when the entire Cowichan watershed is considered as a whole, the picture changes, he said.
"We have about five metres of annual rainfall at Lake Cowichan; it’s less than a metre at Cowichan Bay but it’s all one watershed."
Morrison said that it was important that people do their best to conserve water; he’s even had property owners asking if they should drill wells. "I think that we as a community, if we petition the CVRD to make these improvements, it will secure a supply. "But residents still had one more vital question.
"They asked me: ‘Does that mean we’ll never have Stage 3 watering restrictions again?’ On the basis of local conditions we should never have to go beyond Stage 2 restrictions. However, today, the entire region is implementing Stage 3 on the basis of drought conditions. I can’t ever say that won’t happen. We’re all in the same watershed."
Morrison said he sees it as a good solution with little effect on water rates.
"I believe the Honeymoon Bay system would go from being the fifth cheapest out of 18 water systems in the CVRD operates to the sixth cheapest. It doesn’t change our ranking significantly. It’s not considered to be a big increase," he said.