City counsellors weigh in with their water concerns

Courtenay councillors expressed concern about water supply and quality and equitable voting on water issues this week after haring an update on the Regional Water Supply Strategy.

Jon Ambler

Courtenay councillors expressed concern about water supply and quality and equitable voting on water issues this week after haring an update on the Regional Water Supply Strategy.

The Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) Regional Water Supply Strategy was mandated when the Comox Strathcona Regional District split, and its main intent is to provide a framework for collaborative decision making with respect to water supply issues and planning, Andrew Gower of Wedler Engineering LLP, explained during a presentation to Courtenay’s committee of the whole Monday.

The two primary components are the vision, goals, objectives and actions — which form the strategic framework — and the proposed governance structure, which describes the organization to make those decisions.

“The intention of the strategy was to collate all the ideas around our water supply into a document that could be used to guide decision-making,” said Gower.

The strategy’s vision is to provide a long-term, high quality, reliable water supply to the entire Comox Valley while protecting ecosystems and the environment.

The four goals are to deliver safe, high-quality drinking water; provide cost-effective and reliable water supply and delivery into the future; ensure clear, accountable and equitable water management and governance; and to educate and engage citizens to value water.

The draft strategy has been sent to the provincial government for review and is being referred to the local municipalities.

“The process going forward is to gain endorsement from the municipalities and hopefully go to the CVRD board in March for approval and then execution of the actual strategy,” said Gower.

For the Comox Lake water system, the biggest conclusion drawn was that whether the Comox Lake water system stays independent or joins a larger regional system, there isn’t a big difference in cost, according to Gower.

Of the consolidated options, the least costly at about $147 million over 50 years was to have Cumberland and Royston supplied from Comox Lake, while Union Bay, Fanny Bay, Ships Point and Black Creek would also stay as they are.

It became more expensive to have Comox Lake and Langley Lake as the sources, explained Gower.

Coun. Jon Ambler raised the issue of equitable management and governance of the water system.

“You’d think your voting power would be proportional to your use,” he said. “We’ve got a current structure where it’s not, and for some reason, there’s great resistance to changing that. We use 60 per cent of the water and don’t have 50 per cent of the vote. People who use only 40 per cent of the water can outvote 60 per cent because of a skewed voting structure.”

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard emphasized the strategy’s second goal, which is to provide a cost-effective and reliable water supply.

Coun. Larry Jangula expressed concern about providing safe drinking water and the fact there are almost four kilometres of open water from the lake to the penstock, and he felt a deep-water intake could do a lot to mitigate any risks of contamination.

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