Saturday, June 22, 2024
June 22, 2024

Viewpoint: Fulford water expansion plan flawed


With about one week of advance notice, the Capital Regional District (CRD) has tasked Fulford Water Service commissioners with a 426-page agenda of documents for a special meeting to “consider including the proposed Ocean Estuary (Vortex) development in the Fulford Water Local Service Area and to make a recommendation in that regard.” One week to prepare for a meeting that draws on some 400 pages of reports effectively bars Fulford Water Service ratepayers from meaningful participation in the CRD decision.

CRD urgency for local approval of their preferred outcome is one of several sources of a reasonable apprehension of bias in favour of the developer. For examples, CRD hired GW Solutions to study the issue of water availability for Vortex. In 2022, GW Solutions published “Weston Lake Water Availability and Climate Change Assessment.” In it, GW Solutions estimates climate change will reduce the volume of water available to the Fulford system by up to 30 per cent. Tellingly, in their three-page summary of the issue, CRD does not mention the effect of climate change.

Furthermore, GW Solutions recommended that CRD “Improve the relationship between land development and groundwater usage and place a high importance on land development and land management decisions that do not jeopardize water resources.” This recommendation suggests an imbalance between approval of high water use developments like tourist resorts and scarce water resources.

Various reports and the CRD claim “Increased and improved water conservation will ameliorate the situation.” Individual water meters for Fulford ratepayers are at or near the top of the list for conservation measures. However, these reports do not include costs such as the cost of installing the meters. Conservation also includes restricting water from agricultural uses. Since the dry season coincides with high tourist season, CRD recommends growers of food give up their water to the Vortex. Virtually all the costs of additional conservation fall to the ratepayers.

In addition, CRD refers to annual water requirements. This includes the Vortex application’s annual requirement. Focusing on annual demand misleads the public away from seasonal drought concerns. Likely, some large fraction of Vortex water demand will occur in the dry season. Supposing some 80 per cent of demand occurs in the summer season changes the water demand picture to the degree the developer’s estimates may not be reliable. Is it reasonable to predict some 60 resort guests, retail operations and a restaurant will get by on about 40 cubic metres of water per day?

In general, CRD speaks more to the capacity of their water distribution system and less to the availability of raw water for treatment. This approach results in a reasonable apprehension of bias toward the developer.

In light of the above and other reasons, the Fulford Water Service Commission could vote for Alternative 3 “Refer the report back to staff for additional information.” That could include answering questions like “what are the costs of conservation” and “what impact will climate change deliver to fresh water availability?”

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