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Parksville council hears concerns about state of city’s water supply

Delegation worried levels at Arrowsmith Dam Lake too low
Arrowsmith Lake on Oct. 23, 2022. Screenshot is from a presentation to Parksville council’s Nov. 21 regular meeting by retired engineer Wayne Moorman.

Concerns over the state of Parksville’s water supply were brought up at city council’s Nov. 21 regular meeting.

The water level at Arrowsmith Dam Lake, one of the city’s water sources, is dangerously low, according to a presentation to council by retired engineer Wayne Moorman, of the Greig Greenway Society.

“The water was pretty much gone,” he said, citing a photo of the dam from October.

The dam’s reservoir, located approximately 35 kilometres south of the city, can hold up to nine million cubic metres and is used to supplement the Englishman River’s flow by releasing water during the summer and fall, according to the City of Parksville.

Moorman said the city’s water licence requires that the water flow in the Englishman River, when water is released from the reservoir between June 1 and Oct. 31, must be above 1.6 cubic metres/second. The flow is measured by a Water Survey of Canada (WSC) gauge at the Orange Bridge.

The city has not be able to maintain that flow target during the summer months since the dam opened in 1999, according to Moorman.

He added that prior to the start of the rainy season, flows as a low as 0.562 cubic metres/second were recorded at the Orange Bridge gauge, even with water released from the lake, according to provisional WSC data.

As of Nov. 18, Arrowsmith Dam Lake is critically low, with its high-level outlet exposed and not functioning, according to Moorman’s presentation.

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The flow measured at the Orange Bridge was at 1.6 cubic metres/second as of Nov. 19, he added.

He expressed concern that the provisional operating rule is based on hydrology data from the 1990s and does not account for the effects of climate change.

Moorman also pointed out the city’s population increases to approximately 22,000 in the summer tourism season, according to the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce, which places greater demand on water resources.

He called on the city to study the hydrology of the Englishman River, Arrowsmith Lake Dam and local aquifers to determine the capacity for domestic and fisheries needs before further development is considered.

Mayor Doug O’Brien thanked Moorman for his presentation and asked for a copy of the report be made available for city staff to review.

“None of us are surprised when you do this presentation, because when you walk along the Englishman River this summer, you see how dry it has been,” said Coun. Amit Gaur. “It’s almost sad, that you’re trying to revive the salmon when we know we can’t do this with the current practices we have in place.”

Parksville’s existing water licence authorizes water to be withdrawn after the hydrometric gauge located downstream of the intake. Currently water is being withdrawn upstream of the gauge — city staff are working with the province to obtain an updated water licence in 2023, according to the city’s website.

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