The rainwater harvesting system rebate program from the Regional District of Nanaimo continues to be the most popular in Electoral Area B.
Gabriola, Mudge and DeCourcy residents account for 23 of the 36 applications received for the regional district’s 2023 round of rainwater harvesting rebates. Successful applicants receive up to $750 in rebates to install rainwater harvesting systems.
“Some communities, such as Electoral Area B, are more readily engaged in rainwater harvesting and the majority of applications towards the program come for those areas,” Julie Pisani, the RDN’s drinking water and watershed protection coordinator, said. “This year, overall uptake in the program is similar to previous years.”
For 2023, $37,500 was budgeted for the rebate program; as of mid-August $27,000 had been used up.
“As applications continue to be received, residents are encouraged to apply early while funding is available,” Pisani said.
With much of the province, including the Gulf Islands, experiencing a prolonged drought, rainwater harvesting offers a way to reduce drawdown on stressed aquifers. The practice in the region, however, is mostly voluntary. The RDN currently requires rainwater harvesting for new developments in Electoral Area A, overtop the Yellowpoint aquifer, and is considering it in other parts of the region that have low-producing bedrock aquifers, where it is the planning authority, Pisani said. Land use planning on Gabriola is overseen by the Islands Trust.
Seven local trust areas’ land use bylaws include stipulations to some degree related to rainwater catchment systems, with some focused on secondary suites or rental cottages while others are more extensive.
Gabriola’s land use bylaw, which will be the subject of a public consultation process and review along with the official community plan beginning this fall, does not include any requirements related to rainwater catchment systems for new builds.
Both Gabriola’s trustees told the Sounder they have interest in exploring mandates for rainwater collection.
Trustee Susan Yates said she sent a letter to the RDN, calling on the regional district to require cisterns in all new builds, back in the 1980s during in a previous term as a trustee.
“The need is more urgent than ever, for all of the obvious reasons,” Yates said.
“Protecting our precious groundwater is paramount in any discussion of land-use planning,” Trustee Tobi Elliott said. “I think mandating rainwater harvesting for all new builds, and incentivizing and rewarding those who retrofit their systems to harvest rainwater would be excellent initiatives.”
Any bylaw change should be community-driven, Elliott added. “I have learned that top-down approaches don’t always work, so I will look for strong indicators from the community that this kind of initiative would be supported, through our OCP review.”
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder