Sidewinder: Don’t be messin’ with our water

Too many of us take it for granted that our domestic water supply is safe and clean

It’s remarkable how little most people understand about the importance of clean water.

I don’t mean simply for fish and other warm and fuzzy environmental elements. I’m also talking about the liquid that comes out of our taps.

Despite the growing number of people who are buying record setting amounts of bottled water, too many of us take it for granted that our domestic water supply is safe and clean.

It seems that tree huggers and other issue-oriented bullies always focus on the impact on wildlife and fisheries when it comes to clean water and that’s where the importance of the message gets lost in the rhetoric.

Not too long ago, the Greater Vancouver Water District (now incorporated as part of Metro Vancouver) could boast of having the cleanest water of any major city in the world.

With the never-ending invasion of suburbs, the demands for city water have multiplied many times in the past few decades. The system now serves almost 2.5 million people, about two-thirds of the province’s total population, with pipelines extended far beyond the easy capability to maintain the same pristine quality of water.

The treatment of city water was historically carried out at central locations relative to the three reservoirs, Capilano, Seymour and Coquitlam, which supplied water to the existing regional area. The dramatic growth and extension of the water system now requires that treatment must be augmented at booster stations because, beyond certain distances, the efficacy of chlorination is severely diminished.

Despite the insane quest for increased water supplies to areas far beyond the original scope of the system, there has been no growth in the capacity of the three reservoirs to meet that demand. Nothing has been added since the water district was founded several decades ago, except more pipelines.

It would be unfair to say that Metro Vancouver doesn’t provide stringent protection for the watersheds and reservoirs. In fact, these authorities zealously maintain high standards and are loathe to relax those standards for almost any purpose.

To help maintain adequate water supplies in times of seasonal shortages, these same officials demand rigorous adherence to water restrictions, something too many of us choose to ignore because we think we have a birthright to keep our lawns green and our cars clean.

Although Metro Vancouver plays the role of a watchful shepherd over their system, provincial and federal ministries seem to care less and casually allow watersheds and aquifers in other areas to be potentially contaminated.

Many Hulcar Valley residents draw their domestic water supply from an aquifer which they claim is being contaminated by a 1,000-cow dairy farm operation, which regularly spreads untreated liquified manure on the dairy farm’s fields. The residents say the manure seeps into the aquifer and renders untreated water from the aquifer unusable for domestic purposes.

Their petitions and submissions to federal and provincial agencies have fallen on deaf ears, which led the concerned residents to form SHAT, an acronym for Save Hulcar Aquifer Team.

Locally, we have a huge proposed medical marijuana operation, which will draw some of the water it will require from the Grant Hill aquifer, something users of that say will reduce the capacity of it. Again, federal and provincial authorities have turned a blind eye to that operation.

There are other instances where federal and provincial officials defend their decisions to allow potentially catastrophic situations to continue unabated.

They don’t understand that messing with Mother Nature’s laws can result in extraordinary results from which there can be no appeal.

– Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former city councillor.


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