Water Supply Statement

April 7, 2016

Moratorium on St Mary Service Connections Relaxed

At a special Board meeting held April 6, 2016 the Board of Trustees of North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD) adopted the following staff recommendations for District-served properties within the St. Mary Lake distribution system:

The Moratorium

The Board of Trustees is fully aware of the hardship placed on the ratepayers wishing to build homes or sell properties, within the District boundaries, that have been adversely affected by the moratorium.

In 2014, NSSWD engaged Kerr Wood Leidal Consulting Engineers to prepare a Water Availability and Demand – Climate Change Assessment for both St. Mary and Maxwell Lakes. These reports were dire enough to prompt the Board to immediately take the precautionary approach and implement a moratorium on increases in water demand. This moratorium was expanded as the 2015 drought increased in severity to include un-served lots on the District’s tax role.

The underlying reasons for the moratorium have not changed. NSSWD remains acutely aware of the limitation of water availability on Salt Spring Island and licensed withdrawal limits available to the District. Furthermore, the Board is also expected to exercise their fiduciary responsibility to provide potable water to all tax paying properties within the District’s ability. The reasons for this change in position are:

  • The Duck Creek weir project timeline is now expected to be a 2018/19 completion and a complete analysis of the District’s water supply cannot be completed until a full determination of total demand potential within the District has been provided by Islands Trust. The Board feels it is unrealistic to expect our ratepayers to wait an additional three to four years to receive service while the District awaits the receipt of information and the raising of the weir is complete.
  • The District has a legal obligation to serve current properties on the tax roll and the Board of Trustees must exercise their fiduciary responsibility. Please note that while properties on the tax roll are entitled to service, that right does not extend to expansions of existing facilities even if permitted by current zoning. Further, NSSWD cannot allocate water based on project merit. The District is legally responsible and accountable to existing ratepayers only. Instead, the District can approve service only to unserviced lots on the tax roll and developments with infrastructure already in-ground for which a legal agreement to serve existed prior to the moratorium.
  • During the summer of 2014 and particularly during the drought summer of 2015, ratepayers demonstrated their willingness and ability to conserve water. The District realizes that while our water supply may become limited in the summer months, the demonstrated willingness of our ratepayers to conserve allows us to have confidence that our additional commitments can be served at this time.

Service will be provided according to the following guidelines:

  1. The moratorium will be relaxed on St. Mary-served properties to allow a ¾” service to all properties currently on the parcel tax roll for either a single family dwelling or single unit business upon application and payment of the applicable connection fee.
  2. The moratorium will remain in place for all requested increases above and beyond one single family dwelling or single unit business. This includes subdivision of existing lots not previously approved by the District and currently on the parcel tax roll, secondary suites/apartments and cabins. It also includes requests for structures above and beyond a single residence for lots that are zoned multi-family or duplex developments.
  3. All new or other requests for water service will be refused, including the addition of new properties to the district, such as subdivisions or strata development.

In addition, the District will continue to:

  1. Communicate with ratepayers and the community about water related issues wherever possible and work with any sister agency involved in this area.
  2. Conduct environmental monitoring to provide improved data for a review of the hydrology studies and continued support analysis of the District’s position on supply.
  3. Recommend and implement reasonable water conservation measures and strategies in accordance with our Water Distribution Regulation Bylaw.
  4. That the District may reinstate the moratorium in full if circumstances warrant in the future.

December 16, 2015

Moratorium on Maxwell Side Lifted

The NSSWD Board of Trustees voted to lift the moratorium on water service connections on the Maxwell Lake side of the system at their December 16, 2015 Board meeting. Maxwell customers on the District’s parcel tax roll may now apply for a service connection for either a single family home or single commercial enterprise (depending on property zoning). Customers on the current waiting list will be contacted directly. Requests for additional demand on a property for structures such as secondary suites, cabins or a multiplex will not be accepted, nor will requests for additional agricultural demand. Should drought conditions come into play again in the future, the Board retains the right to reinstate the service moratorium for new Maxwell connections again, if necessary.

The moratorium on the St. Mary Lake side of the system will remain in place until such time as the Duck Creek weir is raised to increase reservoir storage. At this time the District will also continue its policy of not accepting new properties into the District.

NSSWD management and Board will undertake a complete analysis of demand on the District’s system once the Islands Trust completes its long awaited demand side analysis; the results of which will be studied in conjunction with the District’s recently completed hydrology studies.

June 9, 2015

Service Moratorium Update

 The Board of Trustees of North Salt Spring Waterworks hereby advises that due to ongoing drought conditions, and until the weir on St. Mary Lake is raised:

  • All requests for service by current ratepayers to vacant lots on the District’s parcel tax roll serviced from either St. Mary or Maxwell Lakes will be reviewed on a case by case basis.
  • The District will not be accepting any requests for additional service demand from existing customers for secondary suites or cabins.
  • The District will not be accepting any new customers into the District.

For more information visit our Capital Expenditure Charge page.

April 1, 2015

Managing for a Sustainable Water Supply

As the largest supplier of water on Salt Spring Island, North Salt Spring Waterworks District wants to ensure that the entire community is kept informed about the state of our water supply and the reasons for the current moratorium on new water demand.

In 2013, the District engaged the services of Kerr Wood Leidal Consulting Engineers to assess the capacity of St. Mary and Maxwell Lakes. For each source, water budgets were developed to compare the availability of water against the maximum licensed demand in an average rainfall year and a 1 in 10 year drought under both current and future climate conditions. These technical reports are in the final draft stage and will be made available to the public when they are completed.

Both hydrology reports contain a number of important conclusions and recommendations that the District plans to address. We now understand that both lakes are very vulnerable to drought and an increased focus on conservation and drought management will be necessary. For example, the Maxwell report has identified that following a drought it may take four years of greater than average rainfall to refill Maxwell. At St. Mary Lake, in 2014, the District would not have been able to maintain fish flows in Duck Creek if the total licensed volume had been withdrawn.

More importantly, these draft reports have identified that both lakes are fully allocated. Neither lake has enough water to support any additional water licences. With a number of developments on the horizon, the District needs time to complete the reports and strategically assess the situation. This assessment has taken longer than expected as information gaps required filling and additional data needed to be gathered. Even when the reports have been completed, monitoring to further refine our understanding will be ongoing.

Given that over-allocation of our limited freshwater resources would place our community at serious risk, in the fall of 2014, the District took the precautionary approach and placed a moratorium on new water demand until the reports can be completed and the full impacts assessed.

The District will be working with the Islands Trust and other agencies to determine whether or not the District has the ability to serve our current commitments and the full build-out planned for the community by the Islands Trust. Currently, the District does not have a clear understanding of how much water is needed for build out under current zoning. Furthermore, zoning does not assure water is available.

The District is keeping a queue of properties requesting water service. Owners that intend to request service are encouraged to contact the District. Although the Board of Trustees will consider each request, in general, the decision to approve or deny service will be made according to the questions and answers below.

Does this mean that the District is out of water?

No, the District doesn’t currently withdraw our total licensed peak day limit. In 2014, the District withdrew 58% of the licensed peak day withdrawal at Maxwell Lake and 48% of that at St. Mary. However, the remaining portions of the licences must first be reserved for undeveloped properties on the District tax roll.

What properties are eligible for water service right now?

Until the Duck Creek weir is raised from its current elevation of 40.7 m above sea level to 41.0 m, no new demand will be approved.

Projects that do not increase demand will be approved. For example, replacing an old single family home with a new single family home will be permitted because there is no net increase in demand. However, adding a secondary suite or cottage to a property that contains a single family home will not be approved because it would increase demand.

Raising the weir will allow the District to store sufficient water to withdraw our full licence from St. Mary Lake. The District has already begun the steps to raise the weir but a number of regulatory approvals are required. In-stream construction is only permitted in July, August and September so if the approvals are not secured before then, it will be delayed by at least one year.

What properties are eligible after the weir is raised?

Once the weir is raised, the District will honour all existing commitments. Existing commitments include properties that are on the District tax roll. This means a capital expenditure charge was paid to join the District and annual parcel taxes are paid each year. A property does not need to have a water meter installed to be considered an existing commitment. Even if existing commitments don’t request water service at this time, their portion will be set aside for future use.

Why can’t undeveloped properties on the Maxwell system be served before the weir is raised?

Although the District has two sources and distribution systems, they are interconnected. The District does not differentiate between the systems because many properties, including most of Ganges, can be served from either source. Any available water from the Maxwell system will be used to meet existing commitments in both systems before any new service is approved. Just as all ratepayers will share the cost of the new treatment plants, they will also share the water supply.

My undeveloped property is zoned multi-family? Will I be able to build a multi-family development?

No, zoning does not guarantee water service will be approved. After the weir is raised, one ¾ inch service connection would be permitted but a multi-family development would not.

What if I incorporate conservation strategies such as rainwater catchment into my project design?

The District strongly encourages water conservation; however, conservation doesn’t reduce the potential water usage through a service connection. In order to approve water service, the District must be able to accommodate the demand in perpetuity. Rainwater catchment systems do not guarantee reduced consumption.

How much water will be left for new developments that are not considered existing commitments?

The District does not know exactly how much water will remain after existing commitments have been met. Completion of the hydrology reports has been delayed so that additional data could be gathered in order to help answer this question. At this time, it appears that there is not enough water to meet all the planned development; however, to be certain, the District must have the potential build-out clearly defined by Islands Trust.

If there isn’t enough water to serve all planned development, who will get it and how will it be decided?

The District does not have authority to pick and choose who will be served. Islands Trust has sole authority for community planning. The District believes that community engagement should be undertaken in order to determine the answer to this critical question as it affects the entire community.

Conclusion

This new understanding of the limitations of the island’s freshwater resources will be concerning to many members of the community. Be assured that the District recognizes the urgency of the situation and has made it a top priority. The Board of Trustees understands that it will require a strategic and coordinated response by a number of government organizations, both local and provincial. Adjusting to new limitations may be difficult but can be achieved with time. Therefore, the District will be continuing the moratorium until a full understanding of the “demand side” has been assessed. The District asks for your support as we embark on a new era of water management for Salt Spring Island.

 

The Board of Trustees and Management of North Salt Spring Waterworks District

October 1, 2014 – Moratorium Announced

At their September 17, 2014 meeting the Board of Trustees agreed “that the District postpone consideration of secondary suite and other applications for new service that we are not already committed to through the payment of CEC fees, for a period of six months, during which time the hydrology studies will be completed and studied, a deman analysis completed, and other agencies consulted with.” This decision was announced to islanders in the Driftwood on October 1, 2014.