North Cowichan is seeking the advice of legal counsel on the municipality’s ability to deny business licences to large commercial water users that want to operate in Genoa Bay.
The move came after North Cowichan received a letter from Mark Moore, secretary of the Genoa Bay Waterworks Society, outlining the community’s ongoing struggle to maintain adequate water supplies to its residents.
Moore said that in the two years since the society took over operations of the community’s water system for its 21 homes, the utility has run less than optimally, but water has been successfully supplied to the residents.
But he said the utility is at constant high risk of not being able to provide water to the core users during the dry months from May to October.
“Commercial operations which are dependent on the community water supply to operate exacerbate threats to the supply to the 21 residents,” Moore said.
“The old Genoa Bay Lodge property is being offered for sale and a prospective purchaser inquired about the operation of the water utility as their plan is to operate yet another guest house if they complete the purchase. There is the possibility that another large home, suitable for a guest house operation, could soon go on the market. The society is alarmed at these developments.”
Moore said if the municipality receives any applications for commercial operations that require access to the community water system in support of their business, the society strongly recommends that North Cowichan rejects giving them the green light to proceed.
“Our community water system was never designed for and cannot support commercial operations dependent on the community water system for their function,” he said.
“Issuing business licences to such applicants will undeniably result in no water during drought conditions to those who make their homes in Genoa Bay.”
North Cowichan councillor Kate Marsh raised the issue at a recent council meeting, and asked staff what the municipality can do to protect Genoa Bay’s water system from running dry due to too much demand from commercial operations.
Mayor Al Siebring said the gist of Moore’s letter is that the society doesn’t want applications for developments approved in Genoa Bay that would require a lot of water.
“I think that’s a common sense position for staff to be taking,” he said.
“It’s the elephant in the room for Genoa Bay.”
CAO Ted Swabey said staff are consulting with North Cowichan’s legal department to ensure that the municipality has the ability to deny such applications.
“The water situation is Genoa Bay is working so far, and we’ll ensure that we find ways so that large water users don’t ruin the situation out there,” he said.