There has been much discussion surrounding several controversial proposed developments in Merritt, with one of the main objections from citizens being that Merritt doesn’t have the water to support an increased population.
City CAO Sean Smith has penned an open letter to Merrittonians with the hopes of reassuring them that Merritt does not, in fact, have a shortage of water and will not run out of water even if the new developments move ahead.
“I want to state in the clearest possible terms that Merritt is not running out of water,” said Smith.
“We draw from the Upper Merritt aquifer, which is stable and has demonstrated that it can support much higher levels of consumption than what we currently draw. We are also built on top of two other aquifers that could potentially be utilized as water sources.”
The problem, Smith says, is finding ways to minimize the impact on the drought prone Coldwater River, which is the primary source of recharge for the Upper Merritt aquifer. The lowest flow levels of the Coldwater River are typically recorded where the river runs through Merritt, form the festival grounds to its confluence with the Nicola River.
“Merritt’s water use is one of many contributing factors to the drought conditions that the Coldwater River tends to experience in the summer,” explained Smith.
“These conditions critically threaten the health of the Coldwater River ecosystem, especially fish, which struggle due to the low flow and accompanying high water temperature. Each year, the City implements watering restrictions as a means of reducing water consumption during drought season, to minimize our impact on Coldwater River flows.”
There is a difference between this lack of water in the Coldwater and a shortage of water for the City of Merritt. Although both are issues which need to be addressed, a shortage of water would be difficult to resolve and require “stringent and immediate action”. Whereas Smith notes, “there are numerous options that can be explored and implemented to substantially reduce our environmental impacts, even with higher populations.”
According to Smith’s letter, the City is exploring those options, to minimize its pumping impacts and support Coldwater River flows.
“These options range from reducing water consumption through xeriscaping, education, and water metering, to seeking alternative water sources, to directly supporting Coldwater River flows in drought season through a series of reservoirs or through groundwater storage and release,” said Smith.
“The ultimate solution will likely be found by working together to implement a combination of many of these options.”
In the meantime, Smith encourages residents to scale back their outdoor watering this summer, which will help support the health of the Coldwater River.
“Thank you for taking the time to read these comments, your passion for Merritt, and for your mindful water use,” concluded Smith.
Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald