Pemberton votes for water security 

Pemberton’s water situation has gone from tight to flowing, with council voting Tuesday to approve a bylaw to borrow money from the provincial ministry of community services to build a new groundwater supply well, and connect all three of Pemberton’s water supplies.

The Village of Pemberton (VOP) has been approved to borrow up to $924,740 from the ministry, although the cost may actually be lower. A grant from the Municipal Infrastructure Fund will provide $355,500 towards the well project, leaving the VOP on the hook for the balance of the cost.

The fourth reading came after entering into a mandatory Alternative Approval Process, which would have deferred the project if just 10 per cent of Pemberton’s electorate opposed borrowing the money.

Mayor Jordan Sturdy says the new well will offer a level of redundancy in the municipal water system, while addressing issues with the town’s other water sources.

“Council’s primary concern was that we were basically relying on one well for the entire community,” he said. “We were very concerned that if the well was impacted in some way and wasn’t able to produce — which has happened here historically… we could find ourselves in a situation with potential water shortages. What we were looking for here, more than anything, was redundancy, and we found another well location in an excellent strata that is a great water source.”

Pemberton’s well issues go back more than a decade to when a well that was drilled in 1992 started to fill up with particulate, which had cemented and reduced flows significantly by 2000. Pemberton drilled another well in 1997 to make up for the diminished capacity, which is still producing, but it also has a higher level of corrosiveness that has caused leaky pipes and damaged water heaters in town.

The well drilled in 1992 is being partially restored, and part of the money borrowed from the ministry will go to bring the three well systems together and condition the water to remove particulate and treat the corrosive water from the second well.

The flow will also be treated with small amounts of chlorine, as part of an agreement with the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority to provide a treatment with a residual effect on the water system.

All of this should happen within the next six months, said Sturdy.

With the three wells in operation, Sturdy says the water system will more than be able to handle the current demand and future growth. They are also installing well-head meters so they can better measure production and water use.

Despite the cost of financing the new wells, Sturdy says water rates have only been increased in line with inflation. However, the VOP has identified 130 suites in the Village of Pemberton that were not contributing previously, increasing the number of ratepayers in the community.

“What we were looking for is equity,” he explained. “If one person is paying for both a single family residence and a suite, and the neighbours are in the same situation but only reporting a single family residence it’s not really fair.”

Although water conservation is still an issue and bylaws call for water meters to be installed in all new homes, the VOP has no plans to introduce metering any time soon.

“A situation where the people who use the most (water) pay more, and those that use less pay less is fair, it’s the optimal approach, but it’s also fairly expensive,” he said. “We’ve seen preliminary numbers of three-quarters of a million dollars to retrofit the whole village in this respect, and we had to ask ourselves if it was worth it — what else could we do with $750,000? Certainly there are other things that could compete in terms of priorities.”

That said, Sturdy says the VOP is open to other ideas to conserve water.

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