Water Conservation on Ships PointFrequently Asked Questions
Q: What is drought?
A: Fresh water is a precious natural resource. Besides being an essential need for human wellbeing, it is also the basis of our food production systems, many of our business and industrial processes and critical to healthy aquatic eco systems. When there is a lack of water available we experience the conditions of drought. Drought is a recurrent feature of climate involving a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time, resulting in a water shortage. In British Columbia, drought may be caused by combinations of insufficient snow accumulation, hot and dry weather or a delay in rainfall.
Drought can lead to reduced water availability for household and business use. Lower stream flows may cause warmer river temperatures, impacting fish and other aquatic life. In 2015 we experienced the closure for fishing on rivers and streams on Vancouver Island and the evacuation of thousands of our own Fanny Bay Salmonid Enhancement Society fry (young fish) up to a facility in Campbell River due to lack of available groundwater at the Rosewall Creek hatchery.
Drought conditions can affect the growth of agricultural crops and limit the water available for irrigation. Aquifers (underground water supplies) can be impacted in a given drought year and following previous drought seasons, as there may not be enough water to allow for recharging. If water is not available in a community, it may also lead to insufficient supplies for firefighting.
Q: Why does Ships Point need Voluntary Water Conservation Guidelines?
A: Being prepared to respond to droughts when they occur helps communities protect water for drinking, sanitation and fire protection. It also helps protect fish and aquatic ecosystems.
The Government of British Columbia has a Drought Response Plan that encourages local governments and water license holders to take actions to prepare for and respond to drought. Ships Point Improvement District, the agency that manages our water system, has a responsibility to protect the water supply and to ensure householders continue to get as adequate an amount of clean, healthy water delivered to their homes as possible. In order to manage the risk posed by drought SPID is introducing voluntary water conservation guidelines to our community. Water conservation guidelines are now a standard practice amongst municipalities across North America.
Q: When do we move from one level on the Guidelines to another, for example from green to yellow?
A: The Ships Point Improvement District has a committee that focuses on water related issues. They monitor information from the BC Government with respect to drought and water supply. If and when the BC Government raises its drought response alert for this part of the province, the SPID board responds as appropriate.
Q: Ships Point gets its water from an aquifer. What is an aquifer and how does it work?
A: Almost a quarter of British Columbians rely on aquifers for their fresh water supply making them a critical element of the provinces’ water resource. Ships Point resident rely on underground aquifers for our supply of fresh water. We share this resource with each other, with our neighbours in the Fanny Bay area and with some local industrial users. Ships Point Improvement District has three wells, of varying ages and varying capacities to pump water. These are located at its pump house property and supply the 200 houses on Ships Point.
Aquifers can be thought of as nature’s underground water storage systems. An aquifer is a geologic formation that can store and transmit water to wells, springs and some streams. An aquifer is more like a sponge than an underground river: geologic materials (rock, sand, and gravel) have connected pores that allow water to move from one space to another, but unless the rock is fractured, water does not have large, hollow tunnels to move through at rapid rates.
Wells can be drilled into aquifers and water can be pumped out. Precipitation and over ground flows from snow melt add water (this is called recharge) into the porous rock of the aquifer. The rate of recharge is not the same for all aquifers, though, and that must be considered when pumping water from a well. Pumping too much water too fast draws down the water in the aquifer and might eventually cause a well to yield less water or run dry. Pumping a well too fast or too often might cause your neighbor's well to run dry if you both are pumping from the same aquifer.
Our aquifer has the added challenge of its location next to the ocean. Although this has not yet occurred, salt water can replace fresh water if the aquifer is drawn down too low. Many coastal communities around the world have suffered this problem as a result of drought.