The City of Parksville is joining the Regional District of Nanaimo Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Service.
The service currently only includes the RDN rural districts, Parksville is the first of what they hope will be all the local municipalities to join.
The idea is to create an overall umbrella structure to oversee all the watersheds in the region.
“There is some confusion about the AWS (Arrowsmith Water Service) which is a supplemental water supply only for those who join,” explained Parksville acting mayor Chris Burger.
The AWS, a partnership between Parksville, Qualicum Beach and the RDN, built the Arrowsmith Dam and provides some water though an Englishman River intake. Most of the local water supply comes from ground wells.
Burger said the goal of the regional protection service “is to tie land-use to water availability and eventually establish a water budgeting process.”
The idea would be to know exactly how much water is available in each area and that would dictate future land-use decisions, like how many houses can be built.
Though the regional service is in the early stages, it looks at the overall health of all the local watersheds and will continue to gather a lot more information and bring in additional protection, Burger said.
“Those concerned with the overall state of the watershed should be really excited about this.”
To join the service, city residents will pay a parcel tax starting at $6 per property in 2012 and going up to $8 in 2014.
Every property will pay the same flat rate.
Burger points out that the service is already in the process of establishing observation wells that will provide beneficial information.
“You can’t manage a resource unless you can measure it accurately,” he said. “This is a really good long term investment as a city and it gives us a greater influence on what happens in the watersheds.”
The service is run by a large committee of all stakeholders from local governments to the Vancouver Island Health Authority, to geologists and foresters and everyone working in the watersheds.