Water diverted from Five Mile Creek flows into Nelson’s main reservoir on Mountain Station Road. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Nelson ponders new drinking water sources, updates water plan

Nelson’s 2006 Water Master Plan warned that the city needs an additional drinking water supply.

Nelson’s Water Master Plan, written by a consultant in 2006 and attached below, warned that the city needed an additional drinking water supply.

“With a single main source of water supply (Five Mile Creek), drought and forest fires have put the supply at serious risk of total loss,” the report states.

Eleven years later there is still no new supply, although the city has, according to Mayor Deb Kozak, significantly increased supply by replacing aging and leaking water mains, taking parks off the drinking water system, encouraging conservation, and improving the water intake and treatment on secondary water sources at Anderson and Selous Creeks.

In addition, the city has been planning a lake-side facility that would treat lake water for the lower part of town in an emergency. That $250,000 project has been under discussion for at least two years and will be in place sometime in 2018.

But the city does not consider lake water to be a permanent solution for the entire town because of the cost of pumping it uphill.

The 2006 plan projected that the current water sources (Five Mile Creek, augmented sometimes in the summer by Selous and Anderson Creeks) are likely to fail under drought conditions at some point over the following 25 years. Nelson’s serious drinking water shortage in the summer of 2015 gave some credence to that prediction.


Water: does Nelson have enough? (July, 2015)

Nelson water shortage persists (October, 2015)

Nelson to build emergency lakeside water treatment plant (November, 2015)

The 2006 plan lists the advantages of the city’s current source, Five Mile Creek: good quality water, gravity feed supply, and the protection of the watershed by a provincial park.

The list of disadvantages includes the prediction that supply will fall short of demand, the limited size of the supply pipeline, the risk of forest fires in the watershed, the risk of landslides along the pipeline route, and reduced yield because of climate change.

The plan identified potential new water sources, the foremost being Kootenay Lake, and gravity fed water from either Grohman Creek or Clearwater Creek. It outlined the pros and cons and costs of each. It said new sources, whatever they might be, should be robust enough to completely replace Five Mile Creek if its supply failed. And it could fail, if, for example, a forest fire burned West Arm Park where the creek originates.

Last summer the Star reported that the city’s public works director Colin Innes would present a proposal about Grohman and Clearwater Creeks and other potential sources to council by the end of the summer of 2016, but instead, council decided to update the water plan.

Innes says that is underway now, contracted to Urban Systems, the company that wrote the original plan. The new document will completed by the end of this year at a cost of $90,000, in time for council’s spring budget deliberations.

Kozak defended the updating of the plan in an email to the Star.

“These are multi-million dollar decisions to build new sources, which we can’t attract senior government grants for unless we can prove we have got our house in order…”

Innes said a new master water plan is needed before proceeding with Grohman or Clearwater Creek because he’s concerned that otherwise the approach would be piecemeal.

“It makes sense to try to bring everything together so you are only building one treatment facility as opposed to there being three of them,” he said. “We could go to one source and put a treatment plant on it, or we could look at how to get all our sources together and have just one treatment plant facility.”


Nelson water use below average in January (March, 2016)

Nelson emergency water supply delayed a year (May, 2016)

Nelson’s new emergency water supply system delayed again (May, 2017)

Nelson’s 2006 Water Master Plan is attached below.

Nelson Water Master Plan by BillMetcalfe on Scribd

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