The City of Nelson has decided the best option for an additional water source is Clearwater Creek, which flows into the Salmo River just beyond the Apex ski area.
It will take about six years for water to start flowing from that source because it will happen in stages, each of which will require engineering studies, design work, construction, and funding.
The city’s head of public works, Colin Innes, says Clearwater Creek could replace the existing source at Five Mile Creek in both winter and summer if Five Mile was lost as a source, for example due to a forest fire.
Water from Five Mile Creek flows into the city’s main reservoir at Mountain Station.
The city is in the process of applying to the province for a water licence for Clearwater Creek. Innes isn’t sure how easy that will be because, he says, “If they are going to give you a water licence, they want to know that you are actually making use of it because there is lots of demand for licences.
“Do we need it connected to make the system work right now? The answer is no.”
But in the event of an emergency such as a forest fire, the need could be immediate.
If there are no emergencies, city calculations state that Five Mile Creek will not be able to meet Nelson’s winter needs by 2066 and by that same year the summer requirements would be met only by a narrow margin.
While working on the Clearwater Creek licence process, the city plans to pipe water from two current secondary sources at Selous Creek and Anderson Creek to the main reservoir at Mountain Station so the water can be treated and the source is centralized. These creeks currently feed into small secondary reservoirs with no ultraviolet water treatment.
But water from Selous and Anderson Creeks, used now in the event of summer drought, will not be enough on their own to supplement the main Five Mile Creek source over the years or in case of emergency, Innes says, hence the planned addition of Clearwater Creek.
Stage 1: Selous Creek
The Selous Creek intake is a short distance south of town near Highway 6 and is currently used only in the event of summer drought. The city plans to pipe Selous Creek water along the rail trail and then veer off through Crown land such that the water reaches the Mountain Station reservoir by gravity feed.
“The challenge,” says Innes, “is that we are wanting to have access along the rail trail, and this will be disruptive. So they want us to do that outside of summer. Realistically we would have to do that in phases.”
He said this project could be completed two years from now.
Stage 2: Anderson Creek
Water from Anderson Creek in Fairview will be pumped up to the Mountain Station reservoir. Engineering work and pipe-laying means the process will take another two years after the Selous Creek work is completed.
Last year the city received a $6 million grant from the federal government’s gas tax fund for the Selous and Anderson creek diversion projects.
Stage 3: Clearwater Creek
After the Selous and Anderson Creek work, new pipe from a new intake at Clearwater Creek will join the Selous Creek line described in Stage 1. Innes expects water to be flowing from Clearwater Creek into the Mountain Station reservoir about six years from now, “if all the stars align.”
At the Union of BC Municipalities conference in September, Mayor John Dooley met with provincial forests minister Doug Donaldson to try to expedite the granting of the Clearwater Creek licence.
Dooley says he has no illusions about the effectiveness of meeting with ministers at the UBCM conference.
“You are basically just opening the door a crack,” he said. “But it is never a bad thing to talk with the minister so they can understand the urgency of your request and pull your file to the top if possible.”