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City clarifies drinking water situation

City of Campbell River says BC Hydro's new system will not be a reliable drinking water source
The three penstocks that currently carry the city’s drinking water supply will be removed by BC Hydro as part of the John Hart Generating Station upgrade project.

The city is clarifying why it will no longer share its drinking water supply system with BC Hydro after the mayor suggested last week the city should use Hydro’s new water intake as a back-up.

When council awarded design work of its new drinking water system at its Oct. 22 meeting, discussion ensued as to why the city couldn’t just tap into BC Hydro’s new tunnel which will be replacing the three penstocks that currently carry the city’s drinking water.

Stephen Watson, spokesperson for BC Hydro, said the single tunnel would not provide a reliable drinking water source.

“Tapping into the tunnel had major issues that prevented it from being a viable option as a domestic water supply,” Watson said in a city press release. “For the city’s drinking water safety and reliability, it’s beneficial for both parties to have complete separation from each other’s infrastructure. We have to remember that an earthquake would likely affect water supply in that tunnel. In that kind of an emergency, BC Hydro would like have to de-water the tunnel for inspection. Also, BC Hydro’s new tunnel will be de-watered every two to five years for maintenance that could last for about two weeks. It is simply not a reliable source of water.”

The city currently draws water from John Hart Lake which is delivered by the three penstocks at the John Hart Generating Station to the city’s water treatment facility. As part of the John Hart Generating Station upgrade, BC Hydro is removing the pen stocks for a more seismically sound single tunnel.

That means the city has to come up with a new way of drawing drinking water from John Hart Lake. BC Hydro has committed to pay up to 75 per cent of the costs for the city to build a new drinking water system while the city must make up the remainder.

Mayor Walter Jakeway voiced his concerns at the Oct. 22 meeting that the city does not yet have a back-up plan in the case of an emergency and the city’s water intake fails. He suggested the city use Hydro’s new tunnel as the back-up.

Coun. Andy Adams, council liaison to BC Hydro, said it’s not the most opportune solution.

“There have been comments made asking what’s the advantage of having a new source from a different area of the lake rather than using the three large pipelines that come from the dam down to the generating station now,” Adams said.

“Along with being built to higher earthquake standards, the city’s new water infrastructure, that will go deep into the John Hart reservoir and below the draw-down zone, will be much more reliable than the current water supply source. The city will determine requirements for a back-up system and how to best meet future water supply demand, but it will not be coming from BC Hydro’s tunnel infrastructure.”

Adams said in the end, the city will have a much more integrally sound drinking water system than exists today.

“It is important to note that the city of Campbell River will be receiving a brand new structural and seismically sound, dedicated water supply system that will provide safe, clean drinking water for the next 50 years at a cost of 25 cents on the dollar, and possibly even less,” Adams said.

“With this solid partnership, we will vigorously pursue alternative sources of provincial and federal or other funding for the balance of the infrastructure costs.”


Quick facts


  • The Highway 28 watermain design work will be carried out by Stantec Consulting Ltd. at a value of $422,154


  • In July 2012, Council approved BC Hydro’s commitment to contribute 75 per cent of costs (up to $12.5 million) of the projected costs to construct a new, domestic water intake

  • The city of Campbell River’s water license permits water from John Hart Lake to be delivered to approximately 35,000 people (including three First Nations reserves and some areas within the Strathcona Regional District)


  • Raw water has been delivered to the City’s water system directly from BC Hydro’s pipelines since 1947


  • Campbell River’s high quality drinking water is treated with ultra-violet and chlorine disinfection. Raw water from John Hart Lake does not currently require filtration