Deadline for new water source now pegged at 2020

City of Abbotsford staff have issued a new report that suggests the community is not facing a potential supply shortage by 2016

A new water supply for Abbotsford is not needed as early as was originally planned.

A new water supply for Abbotsford is not needed as early as was originally planned.

Politicians are wading back into the issue of a new water source for Abbotsford and Mission, in the wake of a new report that the city is not facing an imminent supply shortage.

The report suggests the city does not need a new water source by 2016, as voters were told during the referendum on the proposed Stave Lake P3 water system that was part of the November 2011 municipal election. The public/private partnership plan was soundly defeated.

The new staff report pegs the deadline at 2020.

“That’s a step in the right direction – we don’t need a new water source as early as we said,” stated Abbotsford Coun. Henry Braun, after the Abbotsford Mission Water Sewer Commission met for three hours on Friday.

He noted city consumption levels have fallen to 2001 levels, citing the conservation message, and the price of water having more than doubled in recent years.

“That has had a huge effect,” said Braun.

Coun. Patricia Ross, who joins Braun and Mayor Bruce Banman on the water commission, said she never agreed with the 2016 deadline.

“I never believed it was the crisis that it was portrayed as,” she said.

The report on water demand projections says slowing population growth and reduced consumption have bought the city some time. It also says the city must use worst-case scenarios in water planning to ensure a safe supply.

“The future demands are lower than previously estimated in the 2010 Water Master Plan, most notably due to lower population projections, reduced anticipated future demand from non-residential properties and lower per capita consumption,” stated the report.

The combined population of Abbotsford-Mission is expected to reach 268,000 in the next 25 years. This is an annual growth rate of 1.63 per cent, which is lower than the rate of 2.17 per cent which was projected in the 2010 Water Master Plan, prepared by the international firm AECOM Canada.

Jim Gordon, general manager of engineering, said the city found 3,000 water leaks when it installed water meters, and stemming that waste of water, as well as making people more aware of their consumption, will have contributed to the reduction in consumption.

“The water meters are more successful than we thought they would be,” said Gordon.

However, Ross pointed out, “We still do have to figure out a future water source.”

Ross is the only water commission veteran, as both Braun, Banman and the three Mission council members are all in their first year on the committee.

The 50-page report offers projects with varying supply volumes, each with different price tags.

It notes long-term solutions carry higher up-front costs for taxpayers, while interim steps are “more immediately affordable.”

The city currently has a capacity of 143 million litres per day. In 2007, the city’s peak usage was 139.2 million litres on one day (MLD). In 2008 it dropped to 119.8 MLD, went to 126.6 in 2009, 106.8 in 2010 and 93.1 in 2011.

Among the report’s options are twinning the Norrish Creek waterline, which is presently the city’s principal water source.

The cost would be $60 million for 50 MLD (mega or million litres per day), or $80 million for 85 MLD. A drawback of this medium capacity source is the lack of redundancy – an earthquake or landslide could cause the failure of both lines. It’s also reliant on snowpack and precipitation.

Figures cited at this stage are only estimates.

The Miracle Valley aquifer  northeast of Mission could provide a small- to medium-sized water source, at a cost of $20 million, or $40 million with filtration.

A plan to pump water from Stave Lake into Cannell Lake, and then use that as a water source is listed as a $50-million plan that would provide a small to medium-sized source.

The report does not indicate how long these options would extend the city’s water capacity, although during the water debate last year, city sources cited a Norrish Creek expansion as a 10-year solution.

The large capacity sources identified include the Fraser River and Stave Lake, which would both cost in excess of $200 million.

Abbotsford would be the only large municipality using the Fraser as a water source. The report suggests that wells drilled near the Fraser would provide a high water yield, and would be naturally cleaned by a process called “riverbank filtration.”

“There are places in the world that use water far more polluted than the Fraser,” Gordon said. Ross said the staff reports were well done, and it will be up to the commission to direct staff which options to study in more detail. At least three will be drawn into sharper focus.

“There’s time to consider it well, and make sure the public is part of this discussion,” said Ross.