Braun calls for independent review of city’s water issues

Abbotsford councillor wants to know if a new water source could be accommodated by supply system.

Abbotsford Coun. Henry Braun believes the city’s current water system can’t handle a new, expanded water source and he is calling for an independent review of the city’s needs.

Citing a report presented to the Abbotsford Mission Water and Sewer Commission (AMWSC) last month, Braun said Abbotsford’s maximum water availability is approximately 170 million litres per day (MLD).

However, he said the new report indicates the current water supply system is limited to handling about 135 MLD. Braun said he was shocked when he heard that figure.

“I would have thought staff would have known that.”

A limited supply system is an entirely new problem, he said

Last year’s referendum, which was soundly defeated,  identified a new water supply source from Stave Lake as a critical requirement.

“Now that it has been shown that the water supply source is not as urgent a matter as was previously portrayed, we are being told that system capacity seems to be the overriding concern.”

He said it appears the Stave Lake water project was a “Trojan horse” that diverted attention away from the fact that the “entire waterworks system has been overtaxed by development to the point where major upgrades to the delivery system are required.”

To solve the capacity concerns, the report states “only continued, multi-million-dollar transmission main up-sizing will provide significant gains.”

Braun said it’s time for a new, neutral look at the whole water system issue. He has told AMWSC members that at the next meeting, he will make a motion to have an independent peer review of the city’s water issues.

While the 135 MLD figure may be new, the report indicates that the AMWSC has been aware of the “hydraulic deficiencies” since taking over the water system from the Fraser Valley Regional District in 2005.

Projects have been completed to “optimize” the system, including twinning the transmissions mains with large pipes along Maclure and Gladwin roads.

Jim Gordon, the city’s general manager of engineering and utilities, said the figures in the report are not “black and white.”

He explained the 135 MLD figure isn’t the maximum the system can handle, rather the maximum it can push through before starting to drain the reservoirs.

And once the Bevan Wells are operating, that figure will rise to 155 MLD before the reservoirs are tapped.

“We know we can push out about 155 through the system; we just can’t do it for very long,” said Gordon.

He pointed out the need for that much water would only potentially happen on peak use days. The highest usage the city has experienced was 139.2 MLD for one day in July  2007.

Gordon also explained that the independent water line proposed for Stave Lake would have gone directly into the Maclure reservoir. That would help fill the reservoir without impacting the current city system.

“It’s not quite the way Coun. Braun sees it.”

He also pointed out that all of the figures are projections.

“We haven’t run the system at 155 MLD before.”

According to Gordon, the engineering department received the new information in the spring and quickly forwarded the report to the AMWSC.

Demand for water has been “way down” over previous years.

“We didn’t know we would be sending out 3,000 leak letters and we didn’t know how effective conservation would be.”

While he’s not sure if a peer review will help, Gordon still says a new water source needs to be found, ideally one that is independent of the primary existing supply line from Norrish Creek in Mission.

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