In September, Nelson’s water supply had more water flowing from its creek sources than in August, and residents used less water. That sounds like good news. So why are we still under Level 4 water restrictions?
The city’s public works director, Colin Innes, says people are initially surprised by the persistence of water restrictions, “but when they think of the lack of rain lately it all makes sense to them.”
Nelson’s main water source is Five Mile Creek, located in West Arm Provincial Park, which feeds into the main reservoir on Mountain Station Rd. The city also gets relatively minor amounts of water from Anderson Creek in Fairview and Selous Creek at Ymir Rd.
The available creek flow in July was 13.6 megalitres (Ml) per day, in August 6.2, and in September 7.2. So it’s gone up since August. But to put things in perspective, Innes says the usual creek flow in September is about 25 Ml per day, so in September we were at less than 28 per cent of normal intake.
The amount used by city residents, businesses and institutions was 12.6 Ml in July, eight in August following the imposition of water restrictions, and 5.1 in September.
Water use is down in September for some understandable reasons, says Innes.
“People have taken the restrictions to heart, but also the use for watering is down. With all the leaves turning yellow, they don’t water their gardens.”
New water source needed
Innes says the city needs to look for another source of water.
That opinion echoes the recommendations of the city’s water master plan (attached below), written in 2006, which emphatically states that dependence on Five Mile Creek is not an option over the long term.
The plan enumerates a number of shortcomings of Five Mile Creek as the primary source, including:
• It can supply an upper limit of 16.8 Ml per day (not much more than the 13.6 m per day it supplied in July);
• The creek’s yield in the winter was already falling short of demand in 2006;
• The supply line to the city from the reservoir will take a maximum of 11.4 Ml per day, hardly more than the 11.2 consumed in July.
In addition, the plan also cites the risk of forest fire retardant contaminating the water in the event of a wildfire, the effects of climate change, and the risk of landslides.
The plan names some possible secondary sources, namely Kootenay Lake, Grohman Creek and Clearwater Creek and recommends further costing and analysis go into those.
Innes says that hasn’t been done, nor has the city moved very far on the plan’s recommendation that the city institute water metering.
Fixing the pipes has helped
But he says the city has made progress in one important area, and it is related to those ubiquitous street excavations Nelson residents are so accustomed to for much of the year.
“One piece that has been acted on,” he says, “is the underground infrastructure. Had we not made repairs since 2006 we would already be running out of water.”
He says addressing those leaks has increased the efficiency of Nelson’s water supply by about 25 per cent.
Level 4 water restrictions, in effect now within the city of Nelson
• No watering of lawns and boulevards;
• No vehicle washing except at commercial car washes;
• No washing of buildings, driveways, exterior windows or parking lots;
• No filling of pools or hot tubs;
• Trees, shrubs, vegetables and flowers may be watered with a hand-held container or a hose with a shut-off nozzle, micro-irrigation or drip line, daily, from 4 to 10 a.m. and from 7 to 10 p.m.