Meeting taps into water supply concerns

Town considers future options for reservoirs at Stocking and Holland lakes

  • Sep. 22, 2014 12:00 p.m.

Ladysmith is unlikely to reach a crisis with its water supply any time soon. But a water crisis will be an annual occurrence if something isn’t done to increase capacity by 2054.

Those were the findings of a Tetra Tech EBA study into the town’s water supply unveiled to the public during a meeting last week at Aggie Hall. About 100 people from Ladysmith, Saltair and the Diamond area attended the meeting that considered the alternatives for the community’s future following five different options.

“The rainfall and precipitation indicates we’re good into the future for a long way,” said Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins. “It’s not a question of not having a water source, our problem is capturing that water and making sure it gets to our community.”

This first option looked at existing conditions with a Banon Creek diversion to Holland Lake. The town would continue to draw water form the Chicken Ladder intake on Holland Creek as well as from the Stocking Lake source that supplies Saltair. With the current population figures of 8,077 for Ladysmith itself and 10,513 for the area that also includes Saltair and Diamond, the model showed the current water supply could meet demand every year over a 51-year period. But by 2054 when the system would need to supply an estimated population of more than 25,000, the study showed that minimum lake level would be reached every year.

Some of the other options looked at included a water treatment plant, a diversion pipeline between Holland Lake and Stocking Lake, additional storage at the Chicken Ladder balancing reservoir and raising the Holland Lake dams by 1.5 metres. The pipeline would reduce the prospect of reaching minimum lake level to every 13 years by 2054, while the options for Chicken Ladder storage and raised Holland Lake dams would both be able to meet 2054 water demands. But by 2080, only the option including both Chicken Ladder storage and raised dam levels would avert an annual water crisis for the estimated 40,000 population.

John Manson, the town’s director of infrastructure service, said a pipeline and Chicken Ladder storage will be needed to meet the expected demand over the next 20 years.

“We don’t have a shortage of water; we have a shortage of storage,” said Manson.

While the pipeline and Chicken Ladder storage were seen as the preferred method to meet the community’s needs over the short term, Hutchins believes raising the Holland Lake dams should be given greater priority. He said that it would provide a greater comfort level for residents as well as the ecological health of the creek and would provide the necessary redundancy should the region experience California-like drought conditions.

“November, December, January of this past year were the driest on Vancouver Island in the last 100 years,” he said, adding that while February and March brought heavy rains, they came at a time when reservoir levels were already at capacity.  “Why wouldn’t we capture that water?”

The town has already commissioned a modeling study to look into a filtration plant to address the turbidity issues in Holland Creek. Council will now go over the findings of the study to go over options for the community’s long-term needs.

The study was requested after a proposal to extend the town’s boundaries to include the proposed Couverdon development was defeated through the alternate approval process.

“One of the issues that came forward at council very clearly was that there was a concern that boundary expansion and potentially development would threaten our water supply, do we have enough water for it,” said Hutchins. “Even though we’ve done pretty careful analysis over the years on water supply and making sure we have adequate water for our growing population, there was obviously doubt within the community.”

The town has set aside the date of Oct. 1 for a hearing on the proposed Couverdon development.

“We made a commitment back in April that we’re not even going to consider that question about a referendum until we’ve received this [water] study,” said Hutchins.