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P3 answers from city hall

Abbotsford residents have raised questions about the proposed Stave Lake Water Project, as a referendum on the P3 plan will be part of the municipal election ballot on Nov. 19.

City hall has offered the following answers.

Do we have to do this now?

Yes. In summer, despite higher water rates, bans and restrictions, we are already coming close to having days when the amount of water we use will exceed supply. Such a situation could be disastrous. We cannot allow ourselves to be put in a situation where we do not have enough water to put out a fire.

Can conservation help us delay a decision?

No. As important as conservation is, and despite the numerous conservation measures we’ve taken and the progress we’ve made, we cannot reduce our consumption fast enough to address our growing consumption by 2016.

The Polis report we commissioned in 2008 said we could only delay adding a new water supply if EVERY business and household were forced to adopt water-saving technology and practices. This would include having all residents install low water appliances, water saving toilets, and rain barrel systems, and practicing extreme water conservation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Under this scenario, the City would also use water bans and higher pricing to discourage water use, ban water inefficient devices and enforce water-efficient landscape requirements. While implementing each of these measures and numerous others could potentially cut our water use in half, the report clearly stated that it would take 20 years to achieve this.

While we are strongly committed to water conservation, we cannot wait 20 years to address our water supply issue.

Can’t we just expand our current water supply sources?

No. In the past decade, our engineers and outside experts have looked extensively at options like using the Harrison River or expanding the Norrish Creek system. Based on the limited water we would gain, and the tremendous costs involved, these options are not viable solutions.

Does it cost more to operate the Stave Lake system as a P3?

Absolutely not. Opponents of the project who suggest this are leaving out the costs of designing, financing and building the Stave Lake Water Project. When you factor in the lower start up costs due to a competitive bidding process and the opportunity for a $61-million dollar federal grant, the cost of the project is $3.6 million per year less than if we built the project ourselves.

Can we get our P3 grant money somewhere else?

No. We have explored this extensively and the Federal government has clearly indicated that no other funds would be available for this project for the foreseeable future. To ignore today’s water supply problem in the hopes that Ottawa may have funds for it several years from now would be irresponsible.

Will a private company own our water system?

Absolutely not. Our water system has several water sources, and this project is only about adding one more source of water to that system. Today, we control our water quality, we control the distribution, and we control the rates. We will have that control over the Stave Lake water as well. The Abbotsford water system belongs to the people of Abbotsford and it always will.

Why isn’t Mission part of the project?

Abbotsford and Mission explored different project models for the Stave Lake Water Project. Based on our particular situation, our City Council and City staff determined that proceeding now as a P3 model was the best solution for the people of Abbotsford. Mission City Council decided to continue researching other options. As we proceed with Stave Lake Water Project, our cities continue to work closely together on numerous other water projects through the Abbotsford Mission Water & Sewer Commission.

If Stave Lake is in Mission, are we taking any Mission water or land?

No. All water in BC is owned by the Province under the Water Act and the Water Protection Act. The water in Stave Lake is currently licensed by BC Hydro, and Abbotsford is working with the Province and BC Hydro on this project. The Stave Lake water treatment plant would be built on private or Crown land.

What control will we have over the operation of the Stave Lake water treatment plant?

Abbotsford monitors the distribution and quality of its water supply every minute of every day. The water quality at Stave Lake will also be monitored every day and our engineers and water staff will have access to the plant at all times. Like the City of Abbotsford, the operators of the plant will be operating under the regulations of the BC Drinking Water Act, the Fraser Health Authority and Canadian Drinking Water standards.

The private operator will be subject to British Columbian and Canadian law. As well, our contract with the private operator will have clearly defined performance levels and deadlines that they must meet or they will not be paid.

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