Squamish is so water-blessed that was runner-up in B.C. Water Week’s Best of the Best Tap Water Challenge.
It all starts with our great water source. Have you ever asked: From where does our Squamish water come?
The primary source of our community’s drinking water comes from the Mamquam watershed’s Ring Creek Aquifer. Tucked in behind the Stawamus Chief and Valleycliffe are the Powerhouse Springs wells. The secondary source intake is Stawamus River.
The District of Squamish Well Protection Plan oversees our primary water source. The area, designated a Community Water Supply Area, is still relatively protected. Access and area use are fairly limited. Guidelines and regulations call for chemical herbicides to be avoided in transmission corridors and right-of-ways and the use of chemicals to fight fires be prevented.
A 2014 hydrogeological assessment of the aquifer indicated a good quantity of water. However, challenges exist.
Impacts of climate change will affect aquifer recharge. Resource depletion such as the diversion of water for the Skookum Run-of-River Power Project is expected to reduce recharge.
Increased demand to supply our community’s growing water needs will require more wells at Powerhouse Springs.
With a future of uncertainty, increase in demand and possible decrease in aquifer recharge, we’re going to need good water governance.
Governance is largely provincial. Under the Crown, water is to be managed in the public trust for current and future generations. The area is zoned under Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) Official Community Plan bylaws. As a Community Crown Land Interface area, the SLRD/District of Squamish has an opportunity (and responsibility) to advocate in the stewardship of public assets and the environment.
With all this in mind, when FortisBC announced last week its proposed gas compressor station site at Mount Mulligan, which would be in close proximity to the area of our community’s water supply, many questions came up.
How could any adverse impacts to our water supply be mitigated once the area can be permanently accessed and is opened to a gas compressor station?
Will FortisBC’s mitigation and best management practices ensure protected water supplies? B.C. community watersheds are experiencing problems, including costly litigation, despite mitigation and best management practices.
What impacts on our local fire department or provincial wildfire services would there be in the event of a fire or disaster in our Squamish watershed area?
When will there be and who would do a cumulative risk assessment to determine long-term vulnerability to our community water supply?
The future of our community’s water deserves deeper consideration.