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Lions Bay Water: By-Election Edition

Complicated Processes Mean a Lot of Learning

Operating a municipal water treatment system is not uncomplicated, and the challenge for members of Village Council is to learn enough about the process to make informed decisions into the future. None of the current members of Council is a water chemist or holds any certifications, so they must rely on the expertise of our Public Works crew.

Nevertheless, The Watershed wants to give an opportunity on this final day before the by-election to allow the candidates to share their views on the subject.

WATERSHED: What is your understanding of the challenges the village faces with regard to water treatment, especially in light of significant staff turn-over?

Jaime Cunliffe: Our water treatment system was last upgraded in 2008, in order to continue to qualify for filtration avoidance. Normally surface water has to be filtered, but because our watershed has been considered relatively protected in the past we were able to avoid filtration. Filtration is otherwise mandated by the Provincial Health Authority for all surface water sources like ours. Given the increased hiker traffic in our watershed, it will become more difficult to avoid filtration much longer. Testing our water regularly to ensure it’s free of surface-borne contamination requires specially trained drinking water operators. We put a lot of trust in these operators and we must continue to treat them with respect because they provide a vitally important service to our community.

Tanya Cosgrave: Our Public Works team continue to do an outstanding job. This includes water, along with other responsibilities to keep our village safe and functioning. We are fortunate to have long-term Lions Bay resident and former Mayor Karl Buhr as the interim Public Works Manager (PWM). He brings seven years of Lions Bay infrastructure knowledge to the table, along with a familiarity and understanding of our water system and operations. Having a PWM living in the village is such an asset. In addition, all of our PW crew hold their water certification, something we haven’t seen in the past. There is always one Works team member specifically assigned to water, with the other members acting as back-ups. Daily drinking-water samples are collected from various locations throughout the village and are submitted to Vancouver Coastal health for testing.

I am aware there is ongoing discussion to add filtration to our current ultraviolet (UV) water system. I encourage this planning at our Infrastructure Committee meetings and in discussions with staff and Council. The addition of this secondary filtration, will enhance the effectiveness of our current UV/chlorine water treatment system. My understanding from speaking with the PWM is that Lions Bay’s Works crew is very skilled and knowledgeable about the Lions Bay Water System, and we are in good hands. 

WATERSHED: If elected, what would be your priorities with regard to water treatment, usage and infrastructure in the village?

TC: Our watershed draws from four mountains, Mt Brunswick, Mt Harvey, the Lions Mountains and Mt Unnecessary. This is a significant-sized watershed. Lions Bay summer water restrictions depend on our snowpack and summer weather systems. We have a gravity-fed water system, essentially letting the water flow down to Howe Sound, often known as a ‘Use it or Lose it’ system. The village has three large water tanks at Harvey and Magnesia Creek, and at the top of Oceanview. The water intake systems at both Harvey and Magnesia are identical systems, which are connected in order to function as back up for Village water distribution. Should either system go down, we can rely on the other water system to serve Lions Bay’s water needs.  


Water usage by residents will evolve as our climate information evolves. Homes can be encouraged to add water collection for outside watering. Lions Bay will be exploring climate change in relation to our water usage. During periods of drought, our water tank storage is critical for fire safety, thus our water tanks need to have the opportunity to stay relatively full, with the support of all community members. Tanks are topped up overnight during dry periods and rely on compliant low water usage in the community during this time.


Village water infrastructure-projects include the Bayview Road upgrade, as well as our continued Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV) program, to enhance worker safety by placing the PRVs above ground. There are other pipe replacement projects slated of a smaller nature. Neighbourhood consultation regarding location and orientation of PRVs must occur prior to moving ahead in a particular location, as it matters to residents where and how the PRVs are positioned in their neighbourhood.

JC: We need to forge a strong working relationship with our Public Works crew to make sure they recognize they are valued by Council and residents. We need to support them with adequate tools and budget to keep our drinking water network safe and reliable.

We need to start planning for a filtration plant at both Harvey and Magnesia, because we know this requirement is coming. Our drinking water system also does double duty as our fire suppression water, and in the context of more extreme droughts we need to start looking at increasing our supply capacity.

WATERSHED: Is there anything else residents should know about what you'd like to accomplish in the upcoming term with regard to water issues in the village?

JC: We have to walk a fine line between conservation, improving water quality and reliability, and increasing our capacity to tolerate low supply. This will require strategic planning, budget forecasting, and a lot of communication with residents so we all understand what’s coming down the pipe. Our water quality testing has been showing us for a while now that we have to start thinking about filtration in the near term.

Water restrictions in the summer show us how vulnerable we are to the climate, so we should be looking at additional supply like Alberta creek to give our supply network some resiliency in the summer. We also need to improve fire flow in some key areas of our pipe network, specifically the Bayview Drainage and Watermain Improvement Project (DWIP). It’s a shovel-ready project that has been flagged as high priority for several years now. Drainage is a major issue in the village as well as Kelvin Grove – removal of too many trees creates vulnerability to slope stability and the potential of mud/rock slides is increased. There is a fine balance that needs to be taken into consideration. Brunswick has a unique issue with flooding that needs to be addressed as well.

TC: This year the Province of British Columbia has provided our Village with additional funding of $998,000 for infrastructure. Once elected, I will encourage Council to move forward regarding water infrastructure planning, including government grant applications, as they arise. Again, I support the bolstering of our current Lions Bay ultraviolet system, augmented with chlorination with a secondary filtration system to catch larger particulate. The future cost of this addition will require senior levels of government grant funding, when available.


A big thank you to both candidates for sharing their thoughts on our water issues. For a full accounting of each candidate's election platform, click through to their election websites here:

This is the third in a series of articles with the goal of increasing understanding and best practices about water usage in Lions Bay. Please note that the information in this article is strictly a reflection of the candidates' opinions, which haven't been vetted by a water professional prior to publication. The series continues next week. We value your opinion! Please share your thoughts below, or email

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