Cities eye water options, third line across Fraser

On Monday, the City of Abbotsford and the District of Mission held a joint council meeting to discuss the ongoing water issue.

A third water line across the Fraser River, drawing water from Cannell Lake, could offer up to a 20-year solution for Abbotsford and Mission’s water needs.

The idea is one of seven projects that will be examined and budgeted by staff in the coming months.

On Monday, the City of Abbotsford and the District of Mission held a joint council meeting to discuss the ongoing water supply and infrastructure plan.

As part of the discussion, the suggestion was raised for a new line across the river, to allow more water from Cannell Lake – about 10 kilometres north of Mission – to help fill the Maclure reservoir in Abbotsford.

Currently, the Cannell Lake water licence allows for an average feed of 11.8 million litres a day (MLD) of water. However, recent changes to the licence now permits as much as 60 MLD be taken from the lake for short periods of time.

Depending on the time of year and lake water levels, the extra supply could be drawn for up to three weeks before the lake level would begin to drop.

In theory, it’s estimated the extra volume, to cover peak summer time usage, could postpone the cities’ need for a new supply by 20 years or more.

Abbotsford and Mission have a total water source of 170 MLD, however, existing infrastructure only allows a peak hydraulic capacity of 155 MLD per day, before the reservoir begins to drop.

If those levels go down too much, it compromises the amount of water available for fire prevention.

By adding a third line across the Fraser, the reservoir could be filled faster and both source and hydraulic capacity would be increased when needed.

For most of the year, the 155 MLD maximum is adequate to meet both cities’ needs. Average use in 2011 was just 68.5 MLD while the peak day use so far in 2012 was 95.5 MLD on Aug. 20. That’s compared to a record one-day use of 139.2 MLD in 2007.

Conservation efforts, public awareness and a new billing cycle seem to have created a new trend of declining peak water use. However, as both cities grow, usage is expected to rise.

Last year, a plan was presented to add a new water supply from Stave Lake at a cost of $300 million. The project called for a P3 (public-private partnership) to help offset the cost. That proposal was soundly defeated during a 2011 referendum. Since then, new options have been explored.

Abbotsford Coun. Henry Braun said he is pleased to see that both councils seem to agree that water source is no longer the main issue.

“Our problem is not water source, it’s delivery of the water and that still is an issue,” said Braun.

He said the notion that the city is close to running out of water is just not accurate, and the increase at Cannell Lake changes everything, including staff reports.

“All of the graphs that we have been seeing only show the addition of the Bevan Wells – they completely ignore Cannell Lake and the fact that we can for a three-week period roughly extract 60 MLD of water.”

Other councillors voiced similar concerns about the staff reports, some of which will now be revised to show demand levels and projections that include the Cannell increase.

Jim Gordon, Abbotsford’s general manager of engineering and regional utilities, told councillors a new river crossing would provide some redundancy if Norrish Creek, the main water supply, became unavailable. He also said the new line could be used for any of the longer-term water projects that would eventually be needed.

There was no cost estimate on what the new line would cost – a guess of anywhere from $20 million to $100 million was suggested. Staff will now take a closer look at costs.

Abbotsford city manager Frank Pizzuto said because of conservation and other factors, there is “probably enough water for the medium term.”

He said the original Stave Lake plan would have given the cities a new water source and delivery system that would have been sufficient for the next 75 years.

“…we are probably going to have to go there, but probably not as fast as we thought. But we better do some things at the short and medium term to make sure we have an adequate water supply.”

Mission Mayor Ted Adlem said he feels the councils have reached a consensus on what should be happening.

“The whole issue of infrastructure delivery is what we have to focus on,” said Adlem. “I really believe that everyone around the table is now on the same wavelength.”

Along with the third river crossing, staff are being instructed to examine and budget six possible long-term solutions to the cities’ water capacity needs.

Those projects include increasing the water licence and expanding the use of Norrish Creek; using the Fraser River as a new water supply; tapping into the Metro Vancouver water system; obtaining a new water source from Miracle Valley; using Stave Lake as a new water source; and pumping water from Stave Lake into Cannell Lake and using Cannell as a water supply.

Reports would go to the Abbotsford Mission Water and Sewer Commission before going to both councils.