San Pareil was left out of the Arrowsmith Water Service (AWS) when it began years ago and now residents fear they won’t be able to join in, when a proposed new development in Nanoose Bay would benefit from the service.
“I think it’s unfair that we live on the river and [Nanoose Bay] will have this allotment of water and we’re not even included,” said San Pareil resident Don Cameron.
San Pareil currently relies on wells while the AWS supplies bulk water to areas of the RDN and Parksville by extracting water from the Englishman River, supplementing their ground water supply.
Chairman of Shorewood San Pareil Residents Association (SSPORA), Jo Dunn, said it was probably just a mistake that San Pareil was left out of the AWS, but that hasn’t been the answer they’ve heard from Regional District of Nanaimo officials.
The community, which is part of the RDN, is facing a $2.3 million water system upgrade and he’s concerned it would cost even more to become part of the AWS and receive bulk water.
“It would be a huge up front cost for 340 residences and it would be probably an insurmountable barrier for us to be able to buy our way in.”
John Finnie, general manger of regional and community utilities with the RDN confirmed this. Finnie could only speculate why San Pareil wasn’t included in the AWS, but said perhaps there wasn’t strong interest at the time in selling or having the system taken over by the RDN.
In order for the area to join now it would depend on whether one of the other partners in AWS (Qualicum Beach or Parksville) would sell some of their allocation to the RDN — an issue Qualicum Beach is considering. If this happened, San Pareil residents would have to petition the RDN to be brought into the bulk water service area and would then have to buy into the existing infrastructure that other service areas have been paying into for the past 15 years. This is after their $2.3 million system upgrades, Finnie said.
However, he said getting San Pareil to join the AWS isn’t a big concern at the moment.
“Bulk water does give them some long term assurances, but currently their existing ground water supply is very good, it appears to be quite sustainable at this point in time so we don’t have a lot of concerns about that right now,” he said.
But Cameron is concerned. He said bulk water would guarantee a supply, and the way things are going they need that assurance.
“It’s a more reliable source if they take it right out of the river rather than depending on ground water because the groundwater is disappearing.”
Dunn was also concerned that if a new water treatment facility went into Parksville, and extracted more water from the Englishman river, that could have an affect on their already reduced groundwater.
“I noticed my well doesn’t come up as high as it used to, it’s gone down. We’re concerned if all of a sudden there was a major shift in the amount of a water drawn out [of the Englishman River] that that could have a real impact on our wells.”
Finnie said the Englishman River probably only has a small amount of influence on San Pareil’s wells. If it had a lot of influence, a treatment plant would be required.
Dunn’s major concern remains that there is no comprehensive water strategy for the Englishman River watershed, he said, and now a proposed development in Nanoose Bay could be taking a large chunk of it, when other areas within the watershed have not been dealt with.
“It just doesn’t make any sense when they have not included all of the other areas for consideration,” he said.