The Real Water Issue: Distribution NOT Supply

During the referendum, we were told that the most critical concern was a new water supply source and that Stave Lake was the only viable, long-term solution.

Of course, I disputed that conclusion based on the evidence I had available at the time. Since being elected, I spent countless hours reviewing the Water Master Plan, staff reports and consultant studies, trying to find the truth.

TRUE: The water supply source Is not as urgent a matter as was portrayed. We are now being told that system capacity seems to be the overriding concern. In other words, based on the latest Abbotsford Mission Water Sewer Commission (AMWSC), Reports; our current supply system should be sufficient until 2030, maybe even 2035. But, we can’t deliver the water to where it is needed through the existing piping system – that is an entirely different problem than what the public was being told just nine months ago.

WATER SUPPLY SUFFICIENT: In a nutshell, the Average Daily Demand (ADD), in 2011 was 68.5 million litres per day (MLD), which is a decrease of 7% from 2010 (73 MLD). Our present water supply capacity is 170 MLD +/- 2 MLD per day. This means that on a daily basis we are only utilizing less than half of our source capacity. According to the Water Demand Chart contained in the Report WSC 74 – 2012, this would meet our water needs beyond 2030.

WATER DELIVERY INSUFFICIENT: What is now becoming evident is that the configuration of the water delivery system limits the outflow to the customers to only approximately 135 MLD. So it appears that the water source is not the real problem. The problem is trying to pour 2 litre’s of water into a 1 litre container.

REDUNDANCY, (a backup system): This, was also a topic that frequently came up during the referendum campaign. We have redundancy in our current water system – 98 MLD (89 MLD from Norrish Creek and 9 MLD from Cannall Lake), located on the north side of the Fraser River and 70 MLD from 19 ground water wells located in Abbotsford on the south side of the Fraser. Will we need to add to our water supply source at some point in the future? Absolutely, but that day is much further down the road than we were told nine months ago. However, even if we increased our water source capacity to 220 MLD by upgrading Norrish Creek at a cost of approximately $50 – $60 M (considerably less than the $300 M proposed for Stave Lake), that does not solve the distribution system limitations issue (135 MLD), that has now surfaced.

The time has come to be open and transparent about the real problems with our city water. The public resoundingly defeated the water referendum despite heavy promotion paid for by the city ($320,000). In fact, it now appears that the new water source idea was a Trojan horse that diverted attention away from the real issue: the entire waterworks distribution system has been overtaxed to the point where major upgrades are required.

By focusing voter attention on “fixing” the supposed sources of water crisis, the major cost of the system upgrades would be unfairly shifted to residential users. It was development over the past number of years that should have picked up the costs to upgrade the deficient system all along. Unfortunately, the Development Cost Charges (DCC’s), may well have been insufficient. In any event, the DCC accounts have been depleted and, in several cases, are now in the red. Hence, we have nowhere near enough money to fix the deficiencies in our delivery system unless we borrow the money.

This entire situation is not acceptable. Given the history of this matter, the people of Abbotsford need to know the truth. City Council and staff need to regain the confidence of the public in order to move forward. I believe the time has now come to quit spending more money on self-serving studies that appear to avoid rather than confront the real issues. The sooner we get to the truth, the sooner we can begin to do what is necessary to fix the problems. One way to do that is to have an independent Peer Review, which is what I called for by tabling a Notice of Motion, so that the AMWSC can discuss this matter at its next meeting, scheduled for September 13, 2012.

Until we have objective, supportable and independent information, we cannot move forward with decisions, and we cannot give the voters of Abbotsford what they deserve: the truth about the real water issue.