Protection plan to be drawn up for critical water source 

Whistler RFP outlines plan to address contamination, effects of climate change

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - Watershed Worries The 21 Mile Creek intake, which supplies more than 40 per cent of the municipality's drinking water, will be studied as Whistler looks to the protect the future of this important water source.
  • File Photo
  • Watershed Worries The 21 Mile Creek intake, which supplies more than 40 per cent of the municipality's drinking water, will be studied as Whistler looks to the protect the future of this important water source.

The biggest single source of Whistler's drinking water — 21 Mile Creek — will be studied for any potential risks it may pose to the quality and quantity of the town's water.

While the provincial government mandates a protection plan, the timing is also right to address council's concerns about the potential impacts of recreational use in the area — namely snowmobiles using and polluting the watershed.

The municipality has issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) to develop a 21 Mile Creek Source Water Protection Plan.

"This report will identify if our concerns are legitimate, and (if they are) then we'll have to figure out a course of action," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

This past winter snowmobile operators were asked to keep out of the watershed and a sign was installed along the ridge between Rainbow Mountain and Mount Sproatt.

Reports have surfaced that snowmobiles are resting at the bottom of lakes in the area, too.

Councillor Jayson Faulkner told Pique in December: "We have zero tolerance on this. We have a responsibility to our community for things like our drinking water and anyone who lives in Whistler would be rather shocked at knowing there's snowmobiles festering away at the bottom of our drinking water lakes."

He added that water testing indicated there weren't any measurable hydrocarbon-based contaminants in the water.

The 21 Mile Creek watershed supplies 40 to 60 per cent of the municipality's water, at any given time.

The plan, required under the Provincial Drinking Water Protection Act to meet the terms and conditions of the Permit To Operate a community water system, will look to confirm the long-term sustainability of 21 Mile Creek as a significant source of Whistler's drinking water to year 2030 and beyond.

It will also factor in the potential impacts of climate change and how that may affect supply. Climate change predictions for the area are for drier weather, which could result in trees dying in the watershed, said the mayor. And that could increase the fuel load and the risk for forest fire.

"Of course, that's all something we're highly concerned about," she said.

Extreme weather could also result in more erosion, which could cause more turbidity (more particles) in the creek, an ongoing problem in 21 Mile Creek at certain times of the year.

"It is an important source of our drinking water," added the mayor.

"Although it is excellent, and we do supply some of the best water in Canada, at times there is turbidity in the water system, so those are some of the concerns that are going to be addressed with this RFP."

The report will include prioritized recommendations and an implementation plan.

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