Q&A from Feb. 18, 2016 Public Meeting

Q&A from Feb. 18, 2016 Public Meeting

Feedback Period

These questions were asked of staff verbally at the meeting. They are transcribed here with the answer.

Question. Is drip irrigation curtailed under any of the proposed watering restriction stages?

Answer. No, under the new watering restrictions micro-irrigation and drip-irrigation consisting of water delivered to the root zone of a plant using less than 20 gallons per hour at less than 25 PSI are exempt. Veggie gardens are also exempt.
Question. For the Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR), do you treat the water before it goes into the ground?
Answer. Yes the water would be treated (filtered and chlorinated) before it went into the ground. When the water is removed it will be tested and chlorinated before distribution.
Question. Would the injection of more water be readily received by the aquifer?
Answer. Yes, it would take up latent capacity in the aquifer.
Question. Can you raise the Arrowsmith Dam like they did in Victoria to provide water all year long?
Answer. This question comes up a lot. The dam is located in a sub-basin of the Englishman River with a very small catchment area, the average flow of this catchment area peaks around June, on average we would not have the extra water to store given the catchment area.
Question. If you keep moving water from the Englishman River watershed to other areas such as Nanoose, what is the rate at which water will go back to the Englishman River watershed?
Answer. Water does not know boundaries and continuously flows from one area on the planet to another through the water cycle (condensation, infiltration, over land flows, transpiration, evaporation, etc.). There are no specific laws of nature that keep water in one watershed or one aquifer. The majority of the water that precipitates in a watershed goes into the ocean and then returns through the water cycle.
Question. Specifically to do with groundwater, is there research being done to look at the historic water levels of our aquifers over time to determine if our current use of groundwater is sustainable at the levels we are using it?
Answer. We have looked at this and will continue to, as does the Provincial government. Currently when we look to this data there’s no indication to suggest a problem of decline in our area. This data will also be included in our upcoming monitoring process in Electoral Area E. Historic water levels from RDN wells in the Nanoose area that are posted on our website indicate there hasn’t been a notable decline. The data used for the historic levels is not consistent and has gaps; with the completion of our monitoring program in Electoral Area E we’ll create a richer picture. The Province’s research completed on groundwater and recharge has discerned that water levels always decline in the summer and come back in winter.
Question. In your presentation did you say that one day of rain in the winter is enough to supply us with all our water for a month?
Answer. Actually one peak rainfall event in the Englishman River watershed in the winter time could deliver enough volume to supply Nanoose and the City of Parksville with enough water for a year.
Question. With the Arrowsmith Dam catchment area being small, what is being done to determine other catchment areas that we can use so that we don’t run out of water?
Answer. The Arrowsmith Dam has the ability to supply enough water, it is the current intake below Highway 19A (the orange bridge) that’s our pinch point. With the new proposed intake above Highway 19 we will be able to extract approximately two -three times more water from the Englishman River while still leaving ample flow for ecological requirements.
Question. We have had more restrictions during the summer as time has passed. Would we always have restrictions in the summer? In normal years is it the objective to move away from watering restrictions? If someone wants to pressure wash their driveway in July and August shouldn’t they be able to?
Answer. People across the globe are moving towards greater water conservation, we are taking water out of the rivers and the ground at the worst time ecologically. It is a value for us all to control use in the summer. As operators our goal is to manage water supply in the best possible way for humans and ecology. Stage 4 watering restrictions have only been implemented once; Stage 3 is a rare event as we are usually in Stages 1 and 2 throughout the summer months. Given the weather forecast we shouldn’t have a problem but we have to be ready as managers.
Question. The two treatment plants in Nanoose, why is water consistently coming out of those plants and going into ditches?
Answer. Occasionally we’ll have some overflow from reclaim tanks discharge to the ditch at the treatment plant. As for the Library Flow Control Building, we should never have any water discharging from there but we do from the old West Bay chlorine storage building behind the fire hall. This is due to groundwater seeping into the below ground sump and is pumped out. The pump comes on quite often during heavy rain events.
Question. We do appreciate the monitoring on Parker Road; however, we won’t get any feedback until June and the well will be up in April so we are concerned. The developer is allowed to sell up to 100 water allocations, so we are worried about our wells.
Answer. The research we are currently conducting is not complete yet, once it is the information will be publically available and will be used to develop an operating rule. This well will not operate until we have the operating rule in place and monitoring will continue once that well comes into effect. The well will only be operated at safe sustainable rates.
Question. What strategy does the RDN have in place to increase the volume of water available to residents in the summer months? We have 3000+ condos and hundreds of lots planned for development in Nanoose, what’s the RDN’s strategy to increase the volume of water available to us?
Answer. New developments will not go into the place until water supply is secure. The proposed new intake on the Englishman River will increase the volume we can take from our surface water supply by two - three times. In addition to a greater extraction volume the proposed new intake and treatment plant will allow water to be extracted 12 months out of the year, rather than the current 5 months. The new intake and treatment system is designed to allow for full buildout of the Nanoose Peninsula under current zoning.
Question. Can we increase the Arrowsmith Dam to store more water from the rainy season? If the catchment area is not large enough could it be pumped in from somewhere else during this time? Would this be cheaper than pumping it into the aquifer and losing some of the water we have treated?
Answer. Pumping water up to Arrowsmith Dam located at the top of the catchment would not be cost effective.
Question. When will the new intake come online?
Answer. The proposed new intake is planned to come online in 2017 and the proposed treatment plant is planned for September 2018.
Question. The brief description of aquifers in your presentation did not make clear that bedrock recharges much slower than sand and gravel.
Answer. Good comment. Yes, characteristics of bedrock aquifers are different than sand and gravel. The recharge rate of bedrock aquifers depends on the fissures and fractures of the substrate. For instance, if the fractures are fine and there are few of them recharge can be slow, if the cracks are large and there are many of them recharge will be faster.
Question. Is the Parker Road well in sand/gravel or in bedrock?
Answer. In bedrock.

From Table Notes and Comment Box

These questions were posted on stickie notes at the tables during the meeting, or submitted to the comment box at the meeting.


Comment / Questions / Suggestions Response
Could you launch the spring irrigation water smart home checks earlier in the year? Ours was scheduled for July 2015 – after our system was shut down under Level 4 restrictions. Great suggestion. We used to schedule the water smart irrigation checks around summer students, but we now have the ability to start earlier to help irrigation system owners get set-up early in the summer / spring. This year our irrigation checks start in mid-April. See wwww.teamwatersmart.ca for more info.
Water consumption statistics will be interesting for 2016 with snowbirds at home for the winter this year and seasonal population explosion from May ? October 2015 (tourists influx of seasonal and permanent (new) residents). Yes, more water demand in the May-October period does reflect the seasonal population increase, as well as the onset of outdoor water use.
I suggest to start conserving water earlier in the season to prevent a shortage during drought and high water usage time. Excellent suggestion! We try to encourage this very thing – earlier conservation measures can help us avoid shortages later in the summer.
  • No homes built without rainwater catchment systems.
  • All new housing should have storage cistern.
  • Why not insist on rainwater cisterns being installed on all new housing as in other countries?
Requiring rainwater storage for new development has been established in parts of the RDN. See our Yellow Point Aquifer Development Permit Area that requires this very thing (see Section 12.9 in the Click Here. If there is strong support for this in the Area E community, the next Official Community Plan review would be a good avenue to implement this requirement where needed.
Don't like the term "water conservation"... Aim for more efficient use of water. Good point – semantics are important.
BC Observation wells – Where did 5 come from all of a sudden? There have been five BC Observation wells since 2012, installed through the assistance of grant funding acquired by the DWWP program.
Need a concise history of water services and water technologies in the area. We will work to include more history and water technology information into our water services websites.
Where can I purchase a water storage tank to put on my property? There are several local places to purchase a water storage tank – please see the list on our Rainwater Harvesting Incentive Program page.
We support targeting offenders. Saw people in Fairwinds running irrigation all summer 2015!!  
Just moved to Nanoose a few months ago... Was unaware of water issues. Suggest you have info available for new people. We wouldn't know where to look. Thanks for your suggestion – we agree that reaching newcomers is important and we will continue to make our information and resources readily available.
  • Excellent presentation! Thank you for your good work - feel we are in excellent hands. Awesome team.
  • Great job Team RDN! Thanks for updates!
  • Good presentation. Very helpful. Keep up the good work.
Nice to hear! Thanks everyone.
We need to know approx. cost of treatment, estimated % of potable water vs. non potable. In the winter months almost all water needs are for household use. In the summer months use generally doubles or even triples due to outdoor use. All of this water is treated potable water.
Water conservation: workshops on drought-scaping, punitive rates for excess use, target Fairwinds? Good to hear that workshops are useful – we offer them in the spring and this year did so via our Water Day events in Nanaimo and Qualicum. Our rates structure uses a tiered approach to charge the heaviest users the most: Details Here
Don't sell our water! That's how RDN can conserve water.  
  • Is there a way to use ERWS during winter months which would accelerate and/or increase aquifer recharge?
  • Is there a way to use excess Englishman River flow during the winter months to increase or accelerate the recharging of the aquifers? (for increased well supply in the summer)
This is the very concept behind Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR). The large volumes of rain we get in the winter months contribute to high flow periods in the Englishman River. Some of this water could be captured and injected into an aquifer to use that latent storage to store the winter "surplus" for the summer months, when it would be extracted from the aquifer and be distributed to our water customers.
Why use potable water for vegetation watering? Valid question – rainwater is a good source for watering your landscape and takes pressure off of piped potable water.
I don't think the Nanoose Bay residents know about water conservation strategy and targets. Need more awareness of the Water Conservation Plan targets and how to achieve. Good suggestion – we will try to boost awareness about the plan and targets. See the Water Conservation Plan report (2013).
What have the RDN and Parksville done to establish an agreement on how the water quality in the Northwest Bay Island Timberlands forestry operations can be sustainable over time? The RDN and Parksville, via the ERWS and AWS, work with Island Timberlands with the common understanding that forestry practices in the watersheds should be sensitive to preserving water quality. Practices for road and bridge building, fertilizer and pesticide application and harvest in riparian areas have all been improved over the past decades. Monitoring of water quality indicates that water coming off of forestry lands is generally better quality than water off of agricultural and urbanized areas.
Rebates are a good way to encourage conservation. Thanks for this feedback. We will continue to offer rebate programs for residents. There is a new rebate program in the works to pilot in 2016 – an Outdoor Water Efficiency Rebate – that may include elements such as: soil augmentation and smart irrigation. Stay tuned for more information at www.rdnrebates.ca
It needs to be more clear that hand-watering, drip and micro irrigation are exempt from all watering restrictions. Thank you for this feedback. We will ensure that in our communication of the new watering restrictions framework, that we clearly point out that the restrictions do not apply to Hand Watering, Drip or Micro Irrigation in Stages 1 and 2.
  • We want to see more about Greywater use.
  • Will there be rebates to people using Greywater for irrigation?
Greywater regulations are under development by the Ministry of Health. Until there is Provincial guidance on this topic, it will be hard for the RDN to promote or implement. Once there are guidelines in place the RDN is open to offering rebates to encourage adopting these new approved practices.
Rainbarrel rebate should be offered for smaller properties that cannot install large cisterns. It would motivate people to collect rain. The City of Parksville is offering a rebate for small rain barrels in 2016. The RDN is viewing this as a pilot, and if there is uptake then we will consider offering this region-wide in 2017. The more storage space the better, for effectively supplementing water supply, however smaller properties that cannot fit a large cistern are good candidates for rain barrels, even if the stored water does not last long, it still helps.

Emailed Questions:

These questions were emailed to RDN Staff prior to the meeting. The questions in bold have been copied directly from the email sent, and may contain errors that were said in context. The response from RDN staff is below each question, not in bold.

  1. Will a complete update be presented on what is happening with the Parker Road well? We understand that the RDN has taken a renewed interest in supporting agricultural enterprises. What protections or rules are being put in place to ensure all neighboring properties, many of which we understand are designated ALR or are appropriate for agricultural uses, will not be limited in their ability to enjoy the full capacity of the aquifers under those properties into the future?
    The 1 year well monitoring program in the Parker Road area is wrapping up in April. The data collected will be analyzed and used to prepare an operating rule to ensure the safe and sustainable operation of the well. Further information is available on the Parker Road well webpage. This page will continue to be updated as data is collected and analysis progresses. Regulations regarding the use of groundwater for agricultural, residential and commercial purposes are now coming into effect under the new Water Sustainability Act.
  2. Will the RDN commit that the Parker Road well will be the last to mine groundwater from under land identified for or capable of agricultural use for the purpose of servicing urban development within the regional district?
    Groundwater is a community resource that can be accessed for many purposes. Understanding that resource through an enhanced monitoring plan will assist in the management of the resource. The new Englishman River intake, scheduled for completion in 2017 (with treatment completed by 2018), will provide water for future needs in the Nanoose Peninsula Water Service Area.
  3. Has the RDN calculated and put in place decision criteria for allowable total water withdrawals from watersheds as is being done for the Klamath Basin? Have allowable extractions been set for Area E?
    In this regard, we hope to receive guidance from the Provincial water allocations branch moving forward with the new Water Sustainability Act, as water allocations in a basin/aquifers are Provincial jurisdiction in BC.
  4. Epcor, a private water purveyor in Areas F and G, seems to locate most of its new wells on Crown road right-of-way. Why does the RDN find it necessary to essentially require that a contributed well for its utilities must also include a stipulated amount of private land around the well?
    The RDN prefers at least 30m of land surrounding a well to allow for improved well head protection.
  5. Epcor has in the past three or four years drilled six or seven new wells. The community did not know where any of the wells would be "until the drilling rig showed up". Having experienced a great deal of feedback on the Parker Road well, most of it after the fact, will the RDN commit to provide "full, prior and informed consultation with all stakeholders" for all future proposed sources of drinking water?
    The RDN will work to improve proactive stakeholder input processes and will work within the requirements laid out in the Water Sustainability Act.
  1. Would the RDN explain to residents of Nanoose Bay the impact of the pumping of the well on Parker Road last Fall and how it affected the nearby wells. If the RDN is envisaging pumping there in future, how many gallons per day?
    The 1 year well monitoring program in the Parker Road area is wrapping up in April. The data collected, including the pumping test, will be analyzed and used to prepare an operating rule to ensure the safe and sustainable operation of the well. Further information is available on the Parker Road well webpage. This page will continue to be updated as data is collected and analysis progresses.
  2. Recalling the extreme water restrictions of this past summer, do you consider permitting building even more houses on the Nanoose Peninsula , for example the water connections Mazcan Developments from Calgary is allowed to sell and the new connections they require at Oakleaf , all of these due to the acquisition of the well on Parker Road by the RDN ?
    Development in Nanoose is only permitted with proof of adequate supply of water. The new Englishman River intake, scheduled for completion in 2017 (with treatment completed by 2018), will provide water for future development identified in the Official Community Plan.
  3. How many connections is the RDN allowing Mazcan Developments to sell and at what price per connection ?
    The interim number of connections is 63. The RDN has no information on the price per connection.
I do have a question regarding the aquifer storage. I agree we need more storage, however I would be more inclined to do the traditional route and build a bigger dam or another dam. As for the aquifer, why store treated water? Won't it have to be treated again before use? It seems to me the water can be contaminated in the aquifer.
Traditional storage methods are up to 10x the cost of Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR). It is due to the inexpensive cost of the additional storage and proven efficacy of this approach in other areas that the ASR option is being considered.
  1. What are the conclusions if any that the RDN has drawn concerning the impacts of the Parker Road well to each of the adjacent wells in proximity? If no conclusions have been drawn what are the professional opinions of the RDN's hired hydrologists regarding the test results and what level of pumping is the RDN considering for the Parker Road well?
    The 1 year well monitoring program in the Parker Road area is wrapping up in April. The data collected, including the pumping test, will be analyzed and used to prepare an operating rule to ensure the safe and sustainable operation of the well. Further information is available on the Parker Road well webpage. This page will continue to be updated as data is collected and analysis progresses.
  2. Relating to question #1 what sort of "operating rules" is the RDN considering for the Parker Road well? If "the rules" are not in active consideration yet pending more tests or monitoring results how does the RDN propose to develop these rules and what will be the process to involve local residents before finalizing them?
    The operating rule will be based on monitoring data over the last year and the outcome of the October pump test. This will be an iterative process as more data comes in over the longer term.
  3. Has the RDN taken over the Parker Road well now? In other words has the title transfer been completed , the covenants registered, and all terms and conditions of the MazCan/RDN agreement fulfilled and finalized?
    The Parker Road well is now an RDN asset.
  4. Has the RDN made application for a water utility for this well?
    Applications for all RDN wells under the new Water Sustainability Act will be made in 2016.
  5. What is the estimated time frame for the RDN to apply for a licence to operate this well under the WSA?
    Applications received by the province in the first year will have the application fee waived and will have their date of first groundwater use recognized. Applications for licenses that are received in the subsequent two years will need to pay an application fee, but their historic date of first use will be recognized. Applications after the three year period will be treated like new wells and the Province will assign their priority date of use based on when the application is received.
  1. I understand that an aquifer is a porous sand/rock underground area capable of holding water in its fissures. How would water from the Englishman River be inserted into such an aquifer? Would it simply be pumped onto some available surface area and be allowed to sink into the ground from there or would wells be drilled which could then be filled with river water and the water then be allowed to seep into the ground from these wells?
    It would be injected using pumps into wells specifically built for this purpose.
  2. How would water be extracted from an aquifer? By drilling wells into the aquifer and then pumping the water from the wells after it has accumulated there from the aquifer?
    The same wells would be used, only in reverse.
  3. The Jan 2016 WATERnews leaflet speaks of treating the river water before it gets moved into an aquifer. Would the water not also have to be treated after extracting it from the aquifer?
    Yes, it would be treated with chlorine.
  4. How would the water be moved to Nanoose Bay after it has been extracted from the aquifer? Would extra pipelines have to be built or do pipelines presently exist between Parksville and Nanoose Bay that have sufficient capacity for this purpose?
    There is sufficient pipe capacity in place adjacent to the proposed site.
I have often wondered why I have never hear about using catchment basins instead of aquifers to hold water for future use. With all of the hills and valleys with rocky soil in our region, I would have thought that this option (construction of catchment basins) would be part of any future water supply plan. Has this approach been given any consideration?
Large areas of land are required for surface reservoirs of this sort. They would not be cost effective in relation to ASR.
  1. What are the percentage sources of water used to supply the pipeline? Eg ground water wells, Englishman River, the surface water from the lakes...
    Summer – Groundwater 60% , Surface Water (Englishman R) 40%
    Winter – Groundwater 100%
  2. Considering that RDN imposed water rationing last summer and in previous years is it fair to say that during the summer months if rationing was not used that the normal uninterrupted level of water use is unsustainable?
    Watering restrictions help reduce water use. With unchecked water demand, the resulting higher use puts stress on our groundwater aquifers and surface waterbodies.
  3. With winter snowfall and rainfall decreasing and higher temperatures in the summer months as shown in the water report resulting in an increase demand for water is it correct to assume aquifer levels are diminishing?
    The currently available data does not suggest a problem of decline in our area. Historic water levels from RDN wells in the Nanoose area that are posted on our website indicate there hasn’t been a notable decline. The current data data used for the historic levels has gaps; with the completion of our monitoring program in Electoral Area E we’ll create a richer picture. The Province’s research completed on groundwater and recharge has discerned that water levels always decline in the summer and come back in winter.
  4. When does RDN plan to start pumping ground water from the Parker Road Well and at what levels?
    Use of the Parker Road well has yet to be determined. It will be after April 2016, and after development of a safe sustainable operating rule.
  5. If there is water rationing again this coming summer will RDN pump ground water from the Parker Road Well putting a further stress on the aquifers and risk to those on well water?
    The RDN will not operate the Parker Road well in a manner that puts the aquifer and neighboring wells at risk.
  6. If the deal between RDN and MazCan was to use the water from Parker Road area to enable tie-in and use water elsewhere in the district and none of those properties will be using water for over a year why would RDN even consider pumping in the next year?
    The well now forms part of the groundwater well inventory to be used to supply the Nanoose Bay Peninsula Water Service Area. The well will not be put into operation until the operating rule has been established.
  7. Does RDN promise that the Parker Road Well deal will be the last of its kind in Nanoose Bay Area?
    RDN planning envisions that surface water from the ERWS joint venture will provide water for future development. Groundwater will continue to play a role in Nanoose to ensure security of supply, and future groundwater wells may be required.
  8. Did the 72 hour test on the Parker Road Well indicate that the water levels dropped significantly in the deep bedrock wells on the adjacent properties, and if not what would they consider significant?
    Analysis if the data is underway to support developing an operating rule for the safe sustainable operation of the well. The 1 year well monitoring program in the Parker Road area is wrapping up in April. The data collected, including the pumping test, will be analyzed and used to prepare an operating rule to ensure the safe and sustainable operation of the well. Further information is available on the Parker Road well webpage. This page will continue to be updated as data is collected and analysis progresses.
Why is the Region not declaring a moratorium on new building construction until the water problems have been resolved for those who already live here? 2018 is the projected date for the completion of new facilities; how many more buildings will be constructed before we even get to 2018? Why do new houses continue to be built in Nanoose Bay when there is clearly a lack of summer water for established residences?

The RDN has only allowed development with proof of the necessary water. As a result, development over the last decade has been very limited. This requirement continues until such time as the Englishman River water service delivery begins year-round, estimated to be in 2018 with the completion of the new treatment plant.