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AWS finds site for water treatment

Municipal partners still in talks to determine who will pay what share in future drinking water supply
Rick Corbett came out of retirement to help put together the consultants report that will help the Arrowsmith Water Service Board (Marc Lefebvre

The Arrowsmith Water Service has a recommended location for a new water treatment plant and Englishman River intake and is continuing the initial planning work while Qualicum Beach decides it’s level of involvement.

The AWS board received a crucial report at their well attended meeting on Tuesday, a report that included a proposal to look into establishing one of the first aquifer storage and recovery systems in the country.

“We are moving forward with the consultants recommendations, the communication plan and we’re going ahead with hiring a full time project manager,” explained AWS representative from Parksville Marc Lefebvre.

The report said based on a broad study of the Englishman River, the recommended location for a new treatment plant is adjacent to the Parksville City Works Yard in the industrial park and the intake should be nearby, just upstream from Highway 19.

The report confirms the need for the project, estimating that by 2050 Parksville will take 54 per cent of it’s bulk water from the river, Nanoose Bay will need 22 per cent, French Creek will need 18 per cent and Qualicum Beach will need six per cent.”

They estimate at a conceptual level that the first stage of the facility and intake will cost $37 million in 2010 dollars, and a total cost of $52 million over the next 40 years.

The report also suggests that Parksville, and in fact much of the east coast of the Island, is ideal for aquifer storage and recovery (ASR), a form of groundwater recharging, which has been done in some places for decades. In the newer systems they use treated, potable water, inject it into a sandy aquifer as a form of cheaper storage and then pump it out when it’s needed.

“The problem is we need the water in the summer but it flows in the winter,” Lefebvre said, explaining the environmental model suggests a continuing trend toward summer droughts and winter abundance.

The idea would be to capture large amounts of water when it’s more abundant, and also less needed by residents, and be able to use that water in the summer.

He pointed out there isn’t any worries about overall water supply over the year, but a problem of peak period usage and not being able to store that much water in above ground tanks.

While there are ASR systems in the U.S. including successful ones in Oregon where they have a similar climate, there is only one known in Canada, in Ontario.

“This is a chance to look seriously at partnering with the provincial government, develop strategic bonds with higher levels of government,” said acting Parksville mayor Chris Burger.

He thinks it would be a great new system to look into that they might be able to get grants for and use Parksville as a proving ground for a system that could prove increasingly useful throughout the region.

There were a lot of questions from the roughly 50 people in attendance about the interaction between surface and ground water and studies that have been done, but the board and consultants stressed this was just the initial stage of looking into the possibility.

Meanwhile there are still talks going on between the three AWS partners — Parksville, Qualicum Beach and the Regional District of Nanaimo — about the level of Qualicum Beach’s involvement.

They are working toward the extended June 30 deadline to sign a new governance agreement between the partners.

There has been controversy in recent weeks over whether Qualicum Beach wants to maintain their 13.7 per cent share in the system, as established in 1996, since they are only estimated to need to use the AWS for six per cent of their water needs over the current 40 year planning phase.