ADRRA president Rod Nugent makes a presentation to the SRD board during a recent meeting. Photo by Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror

Electoral area south of Campbell River looks to supply own water

Group is studying a site as an alternative to buying bulk water from city

Some residents in the north part of Area D in the Stratchcona Regional District are looking for a new source of water.

Members of the Area D Residents and Ratepayers Association (ADRRA) have undertaken some geologic assessments of the area to look for a source of water that could not only supply their northern half of the electoral district but also the southern half, which currently gets water from a system run with Black Creek of the Comox Valley Regional District.

Due to operating deficits, Area D residents in the north half are now facing a large rate hike to cover system costs. While there are diverging views on how to tackle the problem, a common view in Area D is the City of Campbell River, the bulk supplier, charges to the SRD are too steep.

“We can divert that money from going into the City of Campbell River’s bank account,” ADRRA president Rod Nugent told the Mirror, adding their aim is to supply their own water.

At a recent SRD board meeting ADRRA president Rod Nugent outlined his concerns with the troubled utility, describing it as having a flawed business model.

“They’ve just been staving off the inevitable and I guess they could double the rates and stave off the inevitable a little more, maybe another three years,” Nugent said. “The sooner we start supplying our own water, the sooner we can start saving millions of dollars,” he added.

As one step, the SRD is currently a conducting a study of water for the area. ADRRA representatives say they appreciate the direction the SRD and Chief Administrative Officer Dave Leitch have taken in recent years to become more proactive around water issues.

“Dave Leitch is a water guy,” ADRRA member and co-founder Bob Solc said. “He knows water.”

Solc, a geological engineer, said there are additional questions with the current system around quality – specifically chlorine – and water pressure.

In response, the group has identified an area with potential for supplying all of the water needs for both the north and south halves of Area D. Solc said they are looking at geologic characteristics such as sandstone and gravel deposits in terms of how much water is on site and whether there is enough to handle flow demands for wells. They have also been talking with Thomas Smith, economic development officer with the nearby Tlowitsis First Nation, about their own work on the issue.

The ADRRA members took an initial field trip on June 13 and have been interpreting aerial photographs of the site. They hope to get some geophysics information and map potential reservoirs, which they can present to the regional district. If possible, they would also like to drill some test holes on site, Solc says, and they hope to have a report to present to the SRD in about three months.

“We’ll definitely put together a program of what we would recommend happen,” he said.

At that point, ADRRA will want the SRD to apply for government grants for a project. Whatever the outcome, they say they need an alternative, as the increases of this year will only get worse in the coming years if the status quo continues.

“This is an escalating cost for the area,” Solc said. “It’s bad now, but it’s going to be two to three times as bad four to five years down the road if something isn’t done.”