Squamish's well system isn't large enough to supply the Squamish Oceanfront development with water, if it was built out in its entirety today, municipal officials said this week.
The District of Squamish is permitted to draw up to 275 litres of water per second from the seven-well configuration at Powerhouse Springs, District of Squamish infrastructure engineer Jenni Chancey told council at its Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 27).
But the maximum rate observed at the wells is 210 litres per second, she said. In peak summer months, citizens' water use rockets to 191.8 litres per second, leaving a thin 10- to 20-litre-per-second buffer.
“We can't currently support the [entire] SODC [Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation],” Chancey said, noting that full development of the peninsula would draw an additional 45.6 litres of water per second, calling for the need of an additional aquifer. SODC plans are currently at a high level, she warned, leaving a big margin for error in the figures.
Looking ahead, municipal staff are seeking money to aid infrastructure needs through the district's Development Cost Charges (DCC). The charges are a tool that allow local governments to collect fees — which vary among the different types of developments — to help cover a list of legible municipal projects.
District staff are currently updating the list and proposing a DCC rate increase of roughly 50 per cent. The maximum haul from the cost charges is an estimated $84.8 million over 20 years, Chancey said. But it's still not enough.
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Check out the breakdown of the District of Squamish's estimated $128.4 million worth of new infrastructure needed over the next 20 years —
By 2031, the district anticipates Squamish's population will reach 33,100. With this the municipality will need major upgrades to its sewer system and have to tap into additional water sources, Chancey said. That's on top of upgrading current aging water mains, sewage pipes, bridges and roads. All in all, over the next 20 years, the district faces an estimated $128.4 million worth of new infrastructure required to match its anticipated growth — $43.6 million more cash than the anticipated DCC cash flow.
The district should aim to annually invest 2 to 2.5 per cent of its total $450 million worth of public works assets into future infrastructure replacement — an estimated $9 million a year, Chancey said. Currently, the district sets aside $1 million annually for roads maintenance and officials are raising sewer and water utility rates by 75 per cent over the next five years to support solid and liquid waste systems.
Cashing in on DCCs presents a Catch-22 for the SODC. The district currently has some money in its cost charge reserves, but not enough to cover the flood protection and water system that needs to be put in place to allow development, Chancey said. The DCC income draw is a 20-year plan, which would make it challenging to fund big chunks of the project if they took place within the next five years, she noted.
Construction on SODC could be phased in, Coun. Doug Race said, noting there is some wiggle room to start today. Down the road, Race questioned whether the municipality could borrow money to construct the infrastructure and then repay it using the inflow of DCCs. It's an idea district officials will examine, Chancey said.
The big picture highlights the need for residents to conserve water, councillors agreed. Patricia Heintzman suggested that municipal staff examine a water metering system.
“We need to look at some more proactive conservation,” she said.
Public consultation on the DCC will take place this January, with the bylaw slated to come before council in early January.