Site C reservoir tapped as new water supply for Fort St. John

Fort St. John has apparently struck a tentative deal with BC Hydro to use a future Site C reservoir as a new water supply for the city.

Under the proposed deal, Hydro would not object to the city withdrawing water from the reservoir, and would not charge the city for any lost revenue from power generation losses.

Scant details and news of the agreement are buried in a 50-year growth study conducted by Urban Systems for the city, forecasting population growth and infrastructure needs up to 2065.

The Urban Systems study predicts a number of population scenarios, from a total of 46,000 residents by 2065 if the city grows at rates between 1 and 2.2 per cent a year. If the city grows any faster, sustaining average annual growth in the 2.2 to 3 per cent range, it could see as many as 84,000 new residents by 2065.

The city, which grew 4.7 per cent in 2014, already draws its water from the Peace River through a series of groundwater wells, but the report warns the city will experience a severe shortfall without upgrades or a new water source in place by 2018.

The current supply — pumped out of the valley and to the city’s water treatment plant — is already at capacity, and was built to serve only about 17,800 people, according to the report. The city currently has to draw on reservoir reserves to meet daily peak demands as its population has surpassed that point, according to the report.

Pump station upgrades and a new well could serve up to 24,000 people, the report states, a level that could be reached as early as 2018. An interim water supply would likely be needed before Site C construction is complete, which, if Hydro’s timelines remain on track, would become operational sometime in 2024 or 2025.

Charlie Lake eyed for interim supply

The report identifies Charlie Lake as a potential new water source, but notes the quantity and quality of the water make it to be only a short term solution. Developing a Charlie Lake supply could support up to 41,500 people. If and when Site C is complete, the lake would serve as an emergency backup source, the report states.

Fort St. John currently has a surface water license sitting unused allowing it to draw more than 6.6 million cubic metres of water per year, which could be applied to either the Peace River or Charlie Lake, the report notes. The report says the city must keep this license.

New water supply, upgrades, could cost $93M

The report pegs the cost of developing a new water supply, upgrading and installing a new groundwater well, and expanding the city’s distribution network at $93.25 million.

Developing and building a new water supply alone, from either the Peace River or Charlie Lake, is estimated around $38.75 million. That would include a new, $21-million water treatment plant and $5.5 million pumping station.

Re-establishing the Charlie Lake supply and retrofitting its existing treatment plant would cost $11.5 million. The report estimates the cost of a new groundwater well at $700,000, but forecasts well replacements every 25 years at $3.6 million.

A new well will be needed by 2016, with a Charlie Lake supply in place by 2017 to meet the needs of the city, the report states.

The Urban Systems report will come before city council at a committee of the whole meeting today.

Further details of the agreement with Hydro were not provided in the report.

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