Why don't we have more water yet?
This is an easy question with a complex answer.
The Sunshine Coast Regional District has not added any new water sources to its regional water supply in over 40 years. We are currently very reliant on the Chapman Creek water system. Our 2 main reservoirs, Chapman and Edwards, hold about 120 days of water, without any rain. Recent regulatory requirements by the provincial government to keep a minimum flow in Chapman Creek at all times, and longer, drier summers thanks to Climate Change, have exacerbated the issue.
This means we have a water deficit in the summer time. Our board came in, in 2018, ready and willing to do something about the problem. And we have been. It turns out that it is not that easy to add meaningful quantities of safe and treated water to a water system.
There are many ways to achieve this goal, but none of them are cheap, and we as a board first needed to find out what would be the lowest cost-highest yield option (aka. bang for buck). The previous board had already commissioned studies to drill test wells in potential aquifer sources, and a study to see if building a reservoir would work. The test well study provided us with one good potential site, and we are currently working hard to get Church Road well online.
Unfortunately, due to regulatory requirements from the BC government, it does not look like it will be ready for the summer of 2021. An application for a well drawing as much as 54 l a second (or about 1 bathtub every 2 seconds) has much different requirements to meet than your average household well that draws 16 liters per minute. Studies on the effect on nearby water courses, recharge rates of the aquifer, and the effect of drawing that much water on surrounding wells need to be considered. The aquifer also needs to be protected by an impermeable layer of material above it, to prevent seepage of contaminants from above, and the water has to be monitored and treated to meet regulatory requirements.
Here is a graph showing the total water deficit, and how much of it the Church Road well will do to reduce it (by about 50%).
The Church Road Well, including the well, pumps and the upgrading of current water main infrastructure to handle the increased volume will cost about $9 million. Compared to the $54 million estimate for a reservoir, or the $100 million+ of tapping into Clowhom Lake, this is currently our cheapest option. That is why we commissioned another study for more test wells to look for other promising aquifers, and the results look very promising. We are now moving forward in expanding the existing Langdale well, creating a new well field at Maryanne West Park, and we are also exploring expanding treatment options for our existing intake on Grey Creek. All those combined should take care of our deficit until 2035 and beyond.
We are also exploring other options, like reducing the environmental flow needs in Chapman Creek, and some more long term options like Clowhom Lake and other water sources.