B.C. regional district seeks emergency extension as winter water supply 'uncertain'

SECHELT, B.C. — British Columbia's Sunshine Coast Regional District says continued "uncertainty" about its water supply means it will seek an extension of the state of local emergency declared last month.

A statement from the regional district says it is working to secure the water supply for users of its main Chapman reservoir, but uncertainty of that supply in the coming months prevents removal of stringent water use restrictions.

Environment Canada data shows the region just north of Vancouver received 56 millimetres of precipitation this month and 68 mm in the last 10 days of October, but saw only a trace of rain between July and mid-October, when it usually records 200 mm or more.

The statement says the extended drought switched to snowfall in just two weeks, preventing autumn rains from fully recharging the watershed or filling the Chapman Lake reservoir, which hasn't risen this month and now sits under nearly a metre of snow.

Emergency Operations Centre director Remko Rosenboom says the creek leading from the reservoir was surging after the last major downpour, but when the rain stops or falls as snow, levels can drop "dramatically."

The regional district, District of Sechelt and shishalh Nation declared a state of local emergency on Oct. 18 as the Chapman reservoir, which serves 90 per cent of the homes and businesses in the Sechelt area, was at "imminent risk" of running dry.

The emergency declaration allows local governments to restrict water use by non-essential commercial operations.

“Despite recent rainfall, we remain cautious about securing adequate water supply into the winter months," Rosenboom says in the statement. "Our recent drought period has brought many unknowns about how our watershed will recharge."

Staff are monitoring watershed conditions, the district says, and if supplies are at further risk, additional cuts will be imposed.

Stage 4 restrictions are in place across a wide area of the Sunshine Coast, preventing the use of tap water for anything except household, firefighting, medical use or salmon habitat conservation.

The Sechelt Aquatic Centre, a water-bottling business, several breweries and cideries, and a number of concrete, asphalt and gravel businesses were banned from using tap water last month, but the regional district lifted the limit Nov. 1.

At the time, the district said some rain in October allowed it to "cautiously" remove the measure, but if insufficient rain or freezing temperatures affected water supplies, those restrictions could return, it said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2022.

The Canadian Press