The announcement that VIHA has allowed the CVRD “filtration exclusion” requires far more fanfare and celebration than it is currently being given.
CVRD staff from the Property Services and Water Services branches are to be commended for their diligence and effort in accomplishing this.
The deferral of a filtration plant, estimated at $32 million, is a huge boon to all users of the Comox Lake water system, and was a major goal identified in the 2011 Regional Water Supply Strategy.
If the political will can now be generated to further protect and control the watershed, and pursue the deep-water intake project, this cost could be completely eliminated. In other words, with some careful planning we can avoid spending $32 million or more on a filtration plant for our water system — forever.
Of course, this may mean boating and recreation restrictions on Comox Lake, but would you rather risk the quality of the water we drink every day and the cost to build and operate an otherwise-unnecessary filtration plant?
The announcement that the Province has rejected a request the increase in the water license for this system should not have come as a surprise to anyone. To quote from the Regional Water Supply Strategy of April 2011 (section 3.1.4 – page 26):
“However, the Province has indicated quite strongly, as further evidenced by recent water license increases in other BC jurisdictions, that any increase to the licensed amount for the CVRD would require significant demand measures be put in place, such as water meters. Most recently, the Village of Cumberland had their water license increased, however it was contingent on the installation of universal water meters. Funding for the water meters in Cumberland was partially by Provincial Grant monies and partially by the Villages Development Cost Charge fund.”
At the end of the day, universal water metering will be required for all users of the Comox Lake Water system — which includes Courtenay, Comox and some portions of the electoral areas. It is high time to get on with this project and allow the operators of the water system to properly manage it.
Furthermore, leak detection without universal metering is like throwing darts blindfolded and standing on your head. To properly manage and maintain the water system, reduce leaks and reduce consumption, meters for all users combined with appropriate pricing is an absolute necessity.
Finally, the Regional Water Supply Strategy identified that between $146.6 and $211.2 million will have to be invested in our potable water infrastructure over the next 50 years.
These cost estimates all considered water use based on universal metering. If metering is not implemented, and water use continues at current rates, these costs can be expected to increase between 20 and 30 per cent.
Unfortunately, upon completion of the Regional Water Supply Strategy (with an estimated cost of close to $1 million in consulting fees) the political will did not exist to adopt any of the recommendations — even the basic strategic framework.
Regardless, CVRD staff have continued to pursue the goals of the strategy, and their recent success with achieving filtration exclusion should serve as further confirmation that the Strategy represents the right direction to move in.
Hopefully the CVRD board can now move to adopt all of the recommendations of the strategy, and ensure appropriate planning and development of our potable water supply continues.
Andrew Gower, P.Eng., PE
Editor's note: Andrew Gower is a partner and Courtenay branch manager with Wedler Engineering LLP.