Restrictions expected to help water supply last until fall

NANAIMO – Wells drying up weeks earlier than usual in Nanaimo region.

Zero snowpack and little if any rain in the forecast has the city keeping close watch on water supply levels.

The Jump Lake reservoir, which stores Nanaimo’s drinking water, is currently at 93 per cent of full storage capacity, which is below normal going into July.

“That’s a pretty healthy storage level,” said Bill Sims, city manager of water resources. “We’re about a month earlier than we normally would be. Normally we like to be at 100 per cent full storage by July 1, but with the dry weather in May and June we’ve had to start drawing down our reservoir early. Having said that, we project that we’ll be fine for the summer.”

Sims said Nanaimo residents have cut water use since the city started charging user rates reflecting the full cost of water delivery in 1980. Since 2010, water consumption overall has dropped about 10 per cent and continues to fall about one to two per cent annually despite a growing population.

People turned their taps down to cut daily water use by seven per cent from 60 million litres per day to 55 million the week following the start of Level 2 water restrictions.

At that rate, assuming the drought continues through the summer, Nanaimo’s water supply will last into October, Sims said.

“We’re definitely concerned, but we’re also confident,” Sims said.

Julie Pisani, Regional District of Nanaimo drinking water and watershed protection program coordinator, said water levels at the Arrowsmith Dam, which supplies water to Parksville and Nanoose, is also below capacity.

“That dam is usually at about 98 per cent full at this time of year,” Pisani said. “Right now it’s at 87 per cent, so that gives some kind of an indication of how much lower the lake level is and that’s just due to lack of snow pack and snow melt filling it up.”

Ground water levels are also low and some rural wells are already running dry.

Torrie Jones, president of water delivery service Island H2O, said his trucks are delivering water at a pace they normally run in August.

“It’s looking pretty dire,” Jones said.

Pisani confirmed groundwater levels, based on figures recorded from regional district monitoring wells, are currently at where they would normally be in August.