This past Labour Day long weekend the community of Honeymoon Bay took a proactive stance to try and mitigate the rare water shortage problem experienced on the B.C. Day long weekend by the influx of tourists to the town.
Ian Morrison, Director for Area F, with daughter Rhianon Morrison, along with Honeymoon Bay Fire Chief Keith Bird, Bruce Ingram from BRI Security and his wife Coun. Jayne Ingram, and Lake Cowichan RCMP Const. Andrew Burn were seen at the entrance to Honeymoon Bay handing out information and advising visitors on the need to conserve water, to keep fires only in campgrounds even though the fire ban was lifted, and to not drink and drive.
This action was taken because of the high levels of water used over the B.C. Day long weekend while the town was flooded with tourists. Morrison states that the last time the Cowichan Valley went to Stage 3 restrictions, the community’s water consumption dropped almost in half, from just over 500,000 litres per day, to around 320,000.
“The well will produce pretty much a tank full a day, which is half a million litres,” says Morrison. “Well, before the last long weekend we were 420,000, 450,000, and all of a sudden it looked like the Stage 3 restrictions weren’t having any effect because the numbers were just climbing. So it wasn’t that the amount of water that we had was dropping, it was that the consumption was going through the roof.”
To give readers some context, Honeymoon Bay has upgraded from a reservoir dam on Ashburnham Creek.
“Because of activities in the watershed that (reservoir) was regularly filling up with gravel and debris and the like, and it was becoming increasingly cost prohibitive to clean-out behind the dam,” says Morrison.
This reservoir was combined with a pump located on the lake that moved lake water directly into the Honeymoon Bay water system through a contact chlorinator that was used when there was no water behind the reservoir.
“That was really iffy because the fire department was worried that the pumps on the fire trucks would suck the water out of the system faster than the pump could pump it out of the lake,” says Morrison. “We had complaints all the time about chlorine taste, chlorine smell.”
Five years ago, VIHA brought in new drinking water regulations, according to Morrison.
In effect was VIHA’s 4-3-2-1 policy which states: All water supply systems in VIHA that use surface water sources are required to maintain the following treatment specifications: 4. Log removal/inactivation of viruses, 3. Log removal/inactivation of Giardia cysts and Cryptosporidium oocysts, 2. Treatment processes, usually filtration and disinfection, 1. NTU turbidity (maximum) in finished water.
“VIHA ordered a physical disconnection from the lake and the creek system. They ordered the CVRD to physically cut the pipes and disconnect the system so you couldn’t activate the pump down at the lake in an emergency situation.”
At that time, the decision was made to activate the current water source, a well on the mountainside behind Honeymoon Bay.
“Because the components to treat lake or creek water, they just got an estimate to put a system in Shawnigan Lake, $1 million,” says Morrison. “So we were able to get some grant money and the like and we were able to activate the well.”
This also allowed the community to put in a 500,000 litre reservoir.
“So, we’ve got this really great well. It’s producing pretty darn close to a tank full of water every day.”
And, because it’s well water, VIHA’s 4-3-2-1 policy does not apply.
During the B.C. Day long weekend, the 500,000 litre capacity holding tank was hard pressed to keep up with the water demand as 638,000 litres were used within a 24 hour period.
“When I got the call on Sunday morning, the technician up there said that the reservoir was at 12 per cent. The well produced, for that 24 hour period, 438,000 liters, and the reservoir was drawn down 200,000 litres, or 40 per cent,” says Morrison.
Bird agrees with Morrison about the cause of the high usage of water.
“What happened last long weekend, as happens every long weekend in Honeymoon Bay, is we go from approximately 550 people to as much as maybe 2,500 people, given that we have three or four R.V. parks, all these extra users in town,” says Bird.
He also indicated that there was a private user who ignored the watering restrictions and drained the reservoir significantly.
“Under normal circumstances if everybody follows the rules we should have no problems with our fire flows for the hydrants, we should have no problems for clean drinking water, and all domestic use.”
But neither Morrison nor Bird expected the same kind of issue on the Labour Day weekend as the well was able to keep the tank near capacity before the flood of tourists came into town, and because of the public education campaign that was instigated on the Friday.
There is a plan in the works for another well to be drilled to help deal with high consumption in the summer, and Morrison is optimistic that this secondary source will be online for next summer. The CVRD is currently in discussions with land-owners seeking the access to drill.
“We have issued a work order for a new well to be drilled,” says Morrison. “There is sufficient funding in place to secure a the site and drill for a secondary source. We don’t yet have the funding to run the pipe and connect it up to the system, but we are going to make application for a Gas Tax Funds (grant).”
Local business owner, Denis Caldecott, feels that the CVRD should have addressed and mitigated the issue a long time ago.
“Every year that’s gone by, it’s gotten a little worse than the year before, and yet the CVRD, as far as I’m concerned, has just been sitting on their prat,” says Caldecott. “I was told that they did have the funds in place to do something about this. I just feel that something should have been done a long time ago.”
Caldecott runs Wall Street Vacations and he says that it’s no good for business when business owners have to explain to vacationers that they have to conserve water.
“If you’re trying to run a business, trying to explain that to people who come in here from the U.S., they’re on vacation, they don’t really want to hear that kind of stuff. You’re charging them a good dollar to stay at your place for three, four, five days at a time. That doesn’t bode well for business.”
Caldecott is happy there are plans to put a secondary water source put in place.
“We definitely need another well in here.”