Statement by Regional Water Supply Commission Chair Gord Baird on the Regional Water Supply Master Plan

Jan 17, 2024

The Capital Regional District (CRD) serves the residents of the region and is always open to public feedback whether formal or informal. We are aware of some concerns raised by the Urban Development Institute (UDI) directed towards the 2022 Regional Water Supply Master Plan (Master Plan), we welcome this feedback and unique perspective. The input provided will be registered and considered as we move forward to further refine the Regional Water Supply Development Cost Charge (DCC). We would also like to provide some clarifying information to the community.

Master Plans serve as crucial high-level roadmaps, offering a strategic 30-year vision into the future. They play a pivotal role in guiding utility service providers to allocate resources effectively and enable a focused and proactive approach to assessing potential options and designing solutions tailored to the future needs of the water system.

Reliable and safe drinking water is a foundational requirement of any growing community. We are aware that significant population growth continues for our region and is driving the need for increased infrastructure servicing which is already contemplated in the Master Plan. As the Master Plan is implemented over the next 30 years, treatment and design requirements for each project will be refined based on further feasibility studies and technical work. Prior to moving forward to implementation the CRD will engage with the public on proposed Master Plan projects.

As investments are made in water infrastructure, water rates will increase. The CRD’s Regional Water Supply Commission (RWSC) is trying to find a fiscal balance between current property owners and future owners. By proactively implementing a Development Cost Charge (DCC) program the CRD can fund infrastructure required for growth and reduce the water rate increases to existing users and their future water rates.

Reflecting on our historical regional water supply decisions, the foresight of individuals over 100 years ago is what bestowed on us the watersheds that we rely on across greater Victoria today for ensuring drinking water supply. This legacy underscores the importance of long-term planning and vision.

In today's context, decisions are best informed by a team of expert engineering consultants. Stantec is one of the top ranked water supply consulting firms in the world and the senior professionals that worked on the Master Plan are experts in their specific disciplines related to water supply planning. They have worked on water supply projects throughout British Columbia, Canada, the USA and globally and bring a wealth of experience to the Master Plan. Their thorough reviews undergo peer scrutiny by other seasoned engineers, ensuring a foundation built on expertise rather than opinions.

It is important to note the following:

  1. The CRD and the RWSC’s responsibility is to ensure safe and high-quality drinking water is not a choice but a necessity. It is proposed to add a filtration process in the future to supplement the existing water treatment processes, particularly when water from the Goldstream and Leech sources are used to supplement supply. Over time, even the Sooke source water quality is expected to decrease due to the impacts of climate change, mixing with other sources and more significant seasonal water fluctuations in the reservoir resulting from increased demand. This decision for filtration is grounded in solid reasoning:
    • Prolonged periods of water supply exceeding Aesthetic Objectives for source water temperature
    • Escalating risk of algal blooms due to warming waters
    • Elevated fire hazards and extreme weather events, as evidenced by the recent lightning-caused fire

      As a result of these factors, the existing treatment will fall short of the treatment needs and filtration will be required to remove turbidity, harmful bacteria, protozoa, and algal cells. 

  2. CRD continues to demonstrate a commitment to fire mitigation and watershed health. Ongoing initiatives, such as fuel hazard management, leveraging technology for early fire detection and fire behaviour mapping and modelling are example of several strategies used to minimize risk to the RWS watershed, however climate change and climate extremes continue to increase factors that are outside of the CRD’s control.
  3. Though a steady decline in the per-capita average day demand was seen from 1995 to 2010, the trend has flattened out in the last 10 years, this is consistent with trends seen across North America. To ensure the CRD continues to provide reliable drinking water supply for the current and future population the 2022 Master Plan includes a conservative estimation of future reductions in per capita consumption and assumes the average day per capita consumption remains constant. We do anticipate demand for water to increase as our population continues to grow.

The commitment to foresight, informed decision-making, and proactive measures to address challenges head-on is essential for the sustained success of our water systems. It is imperative to foster a culture of transparency, openness to informed discourse, and a dedication to the long-term well-being of our water resources, after all water is foundational.