Message from the Mayor
Winter is on it’s way!!
With several recent alpine snow events, It appears as though the Fall season started a month early. Hopefully, there is still another month of warmer Fall weather before we get ready for 6 months of snow. Typically at this time of year, there appears to be a rush of new roof construction and new homes racing to get closed-in before the first valley snows. On the Municipal side, the alpine reservoir walls are close to reaching design height and with some additional site clean-up work, we should be ready to catch some ~115,000 cubic meter of water next Spring. This is about 31 million gallons of water that will augment our domestic ground water supply.
About two years ago, our civil engineers reported that they were concerned that the community demand for domestic water in the winter season appeared to be putting pressure of the flow recovery of ground water supply, in other words, the aquifers were not replenishing themselves as fast as we were taking water out of the ground. After some additional hydrology studies, it was concluded that the domestic demand for potable water was outstripping the available supply. In fact at that time, the engineers lowered their original estimates for the ground water supply by some 10%.
Two solutions were presented, find a new ground water supply, perhaps up towards little McGillivray Lake or begin catching alpine melt flows in a large reservoir during the Spring months and then have that water brought into the main system during the high flow winter periods thereby reducing the demand on the ground water supply. This is similar to what Sun Peaks Resort LLP did to gather water for snow each winter. They have 120,000 cubic meters in a reservoir for snowmaking purposes.
Why not just use the water flowing through Sun Peaks in the McGillivray Creek? Unfortunately, the water rights on McGillivray Creek are fully subscribed during the summer months of July to October by the users downstream and these rights go back a number of decades and certainly preempt any additional Sun Peaks needs. During the winter season, there are also minimum flows that must be maintained and during the winter, water flows are already near these minimum levels. However, we can catch the Spring run-off in May and June and store that water for use at a later date.
The first option of new ground water aquifers had some concerns, drilling for new water supplies is always risky. We may find water above our present ground water aquifers however tapping into a new or higher aquifer could negatively impact the existing ground water supplies. The second option is somewhat safer, we know that there will be an abundance of water each Spring and we could fill the reservoir to maximum level. However building an alpine reservoir is not cheap and the regulations around alpine reservoirs are now quite strict and increasingly expensive. In addition, a pipeline from the new alpine reservoir to the Platter Water Treatment plant is required and this is also not cheap. Council chose the second solution on recommendation of the Municipal engineers as there was no risk of not been able to secure additional water supply.
During the winter season, 2019/20 and in anticipation of some water supply shortages, the Municipality entered into an agreement with Sun Peaks Resort LLP whereby the mountain operations would reduce their normal snowmaking operations by some 14 million gallons in order to assist the Municipality with a possible water shortage. Obviously this was a calculated risk for mountain operations however given our snowfall history, there was confidence that some water could be saved for the domestic water supply. During that winter, we began mixing the snowmaking reservoir water with our ground water supply such that we could reduce the amount being pumped from the ground and continue to supply more water for domestic use by using some surface water from the snowmaking reservoir. Just prior to the Covid shutdown, we were getting a little concerned that we might need more than 14 million gallons to top up the ground water supply. Since the Covid shutdown in March of 2020, our water demands have been substantially reduced thus the pressure to find more water is now reduced. However when Sun Peaks returns to pre-Covid visitor levels, we must anticipate that we will likely return to pre-Covid water demand and likely even higher demand levels.
For this coming winter, with Sun Peaks Resort’s blessing, we will continue to share the snowmaking water supply. The good news is that this winter should be the last winter where the Municipality and Sun Peaks Resort LLP share the snowmaking water reservoir. By the Fall 2022, we will have the new domestic alpine reservoir full and we will have an additional 31 million gallons of water (more than double the amount we needed in 2019/20 to augment the domestic supply system). By the way, in 2020/21, about 20% of our domestic water was supplied by the surface water reservoir. With the new reservoir, we will have sufficient water for present demand and enough backup to enable us to reduce our reliance on the ground water supply.
Al Raine, Mayor