Nanaimo, Lantzville to pursue water deal

NANAIMO – Critics say conservation, other issues not being addressed.

Nanaimo city council voted 5-3 Monday night to go ahead and finalize a water supply agreement with the District of Lantzville.

The controversial agreement, the result of a 2005 memorandum of understanding between the two municipalities, will include a 20-year renewable term with Lantzville paying the full cost to connect to the system.

Critics of the agreement say that Lantzville has not shown itself to be an adequate conservation steward of water, that Nanaimo’s own water supply is not secure enough, and that a regional water strategy needs to be established before inter-municipal deals can be struck.

The agreement on the table is to supply only Upper Lantzville residents and businesses with water.

Terms of the agreement include: water will not be used for major agricultural production or golf courses; Lantzville cannot sell or permit the sale of bulk water or bottled water outside the municipality; and Lantzville must keep its existing wells operating at current levels.

Connections to new development will also be limited to 50 units a year.

A city report estimates that Lantzville’s annual consumption of Nanaimo-provided water would equal about 36 hours of current consumption by Nanaimo residents and businesses.

Coun. Bill Bestwick, who voted against the motion, said Nanaimo’s own uncertain water future makes the deal hard to swallow.

“It appears to me we have our own issues and we have our own concerns that we need to address and deal with first,” said Bestwick. “We have some extremely big issues that represent extremely big dollars and until we have a regional growth strategy as it relates to water preservation … I cannot support this motion.”

Nanaimo is currently building a $65-million water treatment facility and new No. 1 reservoir to ensure safe drinking water for citizens in the future. A new dam to store more water is also being explored by the city, a project that could cost $70 million.

Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan, a Lantzville resident, excused himself from the vote and discussion on the issue.

Though the two municipalities have been working on an agreement for more than seven years, Nanaimo officials left the discussions over the past two years to address the city’s own water needs.

A formal agreement has not yet been signed, but council’s decision Monday gives staff from both municipalities the go-ahead to get it done.

“For years our community has been pursuing an alternate water source to supplement our current water system given our depleted aquifer,” said Jack de Jong, Lantzville’s mayor. “Now that the city has agreed to supply water to Lantzville, our community is now in a position to enjoy a safe, secure, and reliable source of water for years to come.”