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Water concerns surface

Whether it’s for consumption, cleanliness or recreation, water is a vital part of everyday life, and future supplies are in question.

So organizers of a World Water Day symposium at Vancouver Island University Thursday (March 22) hope to make a splash and impression with the public. The symposium runs from 7-9 p.m. in Bldg. 200, Rm. 203 at VIU.

World Water Day is a celebration of freshwater resources and focuses attention on the importance of the sustainable management.

Guest lecturers include: Steven Earle, of VIU’s geography department, on the supply and vulnerability of water on Vancouver Island; Jack Anderson, of Greenplan Designs, on water conservation and rainwater harvesting; and Gail Adrienne, Nanaimo and Area Land Trust executive director, on 15 years of stewarding local watersheds.

In addition, there will be updates on the Nanaimo River Working Group, Cedar’s water supply and Nanaimo Estuary conservation.

“A year ago, local residents south of Nanaimo met and talked about major water problems that had come to light in Cedar and Yellow Point," said Laurie Gourlay, president of the Mid Island Sustainability and Stewardship Initiative and event organizer. “This year increased interest in water and our future water needs for the entire region.”

Earle said there are two factors in play for the area’s water supply.

“One is population growth and our current water supply that has limitations on the number of people it can serve,” he said. “The second is climate change.”

His research into B.C. climate records over the last 100 years indicate the province is getting warmer and wetter.

“Overall, rainfall amounts in B.C. are more than they were 50 years ago, but the additional warmth means not all of that extra water is available to us because there is more evaporation going on,” he said. “The other part of the equation is there’s less snow being stored in the mountains, and Nanaimo’s water system relies on that stored snow. That’s a real reason we need to be concerned.”

Gourlay hopes the meeting helps the public get a handle on the importance of water and what they need to do to make sure the supply is there in the future.

“We’re surprised how quickly concerns over our future water supply, and how dependable it is, have surfaced,” he said. “We’ve contacted several people with expertise surrounding the questions that have come to us and they’re going to speak on those issues.”

The City of Nanaimo is searching for an additional supply of water to meet the needs of its growing population. Options include building a $60-million-plus dam in the Nanaimo River watershed or a sharing agreement with Harmac mill.

Gourlay said education is playing a big part in water conservation and could reduce the pressure for an immediate and expensive decision by the city.

“The more people become aware, the less frivolous they are with the supply,” he said. “That can help with a lot of the immediate needs and provide different options.”

Earle believes when it comes to conservation, money talks.

“Maybe the cost of water is too low. People don’t even think about it because they’re paying almost nothing for their water,” he said. “They seem to think because we live in a rainy climate, there’s this limitless supply of water and it’s just not the case.”

Admission to the symposium is free. For more information, please go to www.missimidisland.com or call 250-722-3444.

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