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Expanding water supply a top priority for Nanaimo

Charting a clear course for expanding Nanaimo’s water supply remains a top priority for city officials.

Nanaimo city staff members have been searching for ways to tap into deeper water sources since 2011, when a report revealed the municipality’s growing population could max out supply by 2020.

While residents’ efforts to conserve water has helped delay the “true need” for increased water by at least two years, the urgency to find a sustainable supply hasn’t gone away, said Bill Sims, the city’s manager of water resources.

The city recently wrapped up draft feasibility studies on two top options for the city – a new dam and a water licence deal with Nanaimo Forest Products. There are no front-runners yet, but Sims said the municipality hopes to have a clear direction on how it will augment water in 2014.

The work makes water supply one of several carry over priorities marked for the next 12 months.

“[We recognize the] need to push pretty hard on it,” Sims said. “Over time things happen or forks in the road ... it’s not always as cut and dry as you think it’s going to be when you start a process or a project. Things always take longer than you think they are going to.”

In the next six months Nanaimo city staff members will be “exhausting” all options for bolstering water supply and developing business cases on the top choices for council.

While unpublished draft studies have shown it’s viable to build a dam and secure a water licence deal, details still need to be worked out around how much treatment Nanaimo Forest Products’ water would need and the potential for partnerships with the Snuneymuxw First Nation, according to Sims.

The aim will be to iron out the “finer details with a view to establish a clear direction this year,” he said.

Mayor John Ruttan says accessing additional water resources will be among the top carry-over priorities for 2014, along with the passenger ferry, Colliery dam and construction of a water treatment plant.

“I am not aware of anything new that’s coming along ... but even just managing what we’ve got before us now will be a significant job,” he said.

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