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Village Water Infrastructure Concerns

Short-Term Choices Could Affect Long-Term Costs


The arrival of Village Utility bills marks the one time of year Lions Bay residents are required to pay attention to water costs. Water provision takes up the highest percentage of that yearly cost to villagers, but the future of water usage and treatment in this village is set to become increasingly more expensive.


As noted in previous articles (here and here) in The Watershed, Lions Bay drinking water comes to residents via two principal sources in the village: Harvey and Magnesia creeks.

To fulfill federal and provincial requirements exempting Lions Bay from filtration as part of our water treatment strategy, the village has to meet four specific criteria: a combination of two different disinfection processes, zero-based treatment targets for E.coli in water samples, average daily turbidity rates maintained below an established level, and a watershed control program to minimize fecal contaminants in source water, meaning a protected watershed.


Most of our surrounding municipalities and regional districts have protected watersheds, but Lions Bay does not, which means we can never actually meet the final requirement. Since our watershed is not closed to the public, the central concern is fecal matter and other coliforms making their way via hikers (and their dogs) into the water supply. Our neighbours also have filtration as a critical part of their water treatment, which, again, Lions Bay does not. While the temporary toilet facilities at the Sunset trail-head help reduce the problem, local experts believe filtration is definitely in the cards as a long-term requirement to meet and maintain provincial water standards here.


Poor water quality can also occur as a consequence of high turbidity (presence of sediment or solid particles that make the water murky). Currently, the only solution whenever the creek water quality deteriorates so badly that disinfection is compromised is to shut the system down during these poor raw water quality events. The ultimate consequences of the lack of filtration for the village water system are service interruptions when water turbidity becomes a problem, followed in most cases by boil water advisories. (Poor water quality events are a different problem, of course, from limited supply, which can occur when the creeks runs low.)


When this has happened in the past, typically the Village has operated for the necessary few days by not refilling the tank reserviors as they get drawn down, generally coupled with village-wide boil-water advisories and possibly water conservation measures. However, the problem with this procedure is that we must maintain a minimum level of water in our tanks at all times to fight fires. If there is a fire during a water quality event when the treatment plant is shut down, contaminated creek water must be allowed into the tank to supply sufficient water for fighting the fire. Afterward, the entire system must be flushed with clean treated water (once it's available) to remove all the contaminated water in the tanks and lines.


It should be noted that this only applies during water quality events. Water to fight a fire at the school because of insufficient pressure or because of lack of water flow in high summer is a separate issue.

When he spoke before council on April 18, former Infrastructure Committee member Anthony Greville said that the village has to plan for the eventual installation of appropriate filtration systems. If, as he believes, filtration is still eight to ten years off, that does allow for a forward-thinking council to create a plan to offset these almost guaranteed future costs.


In 2008, a long term solution was initially approved by then-Council for a multi-barrier filtration plant, but at the last minute the filtration portion was removed from the project, and short-term concerns trumped long-term planning. This decision could have lasting repercussions. If water filtration is an unavoidable option for Lions Bay, the potential costs could be high. With costs anticipated to be $5 million per tank, every homeowner in the village could be on the hook for as much as $20,000, if both tanks require the upgrade.


Greville's point was that a little planning for the future could help prepare for these costs.

The maintenance and upkeep of our water system is an ongoing challenge. The Harvey Creek tank was removed and replaced in 2019. A few years ago, under the direction of Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, the Village doubled the disinfection capacity of the UV lamps to compensate for excess turbidity in our surface waters. Next up will likely be some action to allow for intake valve isolation during high turbidity events. This means the installation of all the necessary valve and monitoring equipment – another expense to the Village for an interim solution.


In the short term, Greville believes Village funding is required to design, engineer and install water intake valving and all the necessary equipment to allow for water diversion in times of poor creek water quality. He also sees a fairly immediate need to install chlorine and UVT analyzers on our water distribution system. After that, he says we need to ensure the pH of the water complies with standards to prevent system corrosion and heavy metal contamination. And that's just in the short term.


It seems like a lot to think about, but water treatment is just one element of the infrastructure challenges facing Lions Bay in the coming years. In upcoming posts, The Watershed will address other important water-related issues including drainage, fire water supply and the debate over water metering.


This is the fourth in a series of articles with the goal of increasing understanding and best practices regarding water usage in Lions Bay. The Watershed would like to thank former infrastructure committee members Anthony Greville and Brian Ulrich for lending their expertise. Have an opinion about water treatment in Lions Bay? Please share your thoughts below, or email editor@lionsbaywatershed.ca




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Thanks again for shedding light on our water supply issue. It is interesting that our neighbours have both filtration and protected watersheds. It makes me wonder will filtration be enough (once we get it) and why we are being told we can't protect our watershed. This is something that needs to be addressed by council again. It is especially concerning when you encounter a pile of toilet paper not too far from the sign that indicates the area is the LB watershed and provides our drinking water.


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Who was mayor of the Village in 2008 when the filtration portion was removed at the last minute from the plan for a multi-barrier filtration project?

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kc dyer
kc dyer
May 30, 2023
Replying to

Looking at the village website, I believe 2008 was an election year, with Max Wyman exiting and Brenda Broughton coming in as mayor. (This is surprisingly difficult info to find!)

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As usual, the Watershed provided clear, factual information about an all-important LB issue, our water supply. Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention.

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I agree, Rod. Thank you again, Karen for educating us on this important issue. I had no idea what is involved in bringing safe water to our homes. We take so many things for granted.

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