Metro Vancouver Joint Water Use Plan

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see the Metro Vancouver website for details and for a feedback form

Tonight I was one of perhaps 100 at the lightly attended public meeting regarding Metro Vancouver’s Draft Joint Water Use Plan for the Capilano and Seymour watersheds. While the process has been under way for 20 months, it seems that we are still quite early in the process. As Capilano is the bigger change, and closer to Delbrook, I’ll concentrate on that watershed.

My understanding is that Metro is planning to seek approval to change its water use license from drinking water only to multiple uses. Primarily they want to add electricity generation to both facilities. Once they get the approval from the province, they would dig in deeper on the consultation process, engineering due diligence and planning.

In the case of Capilano, the generation capacity would be up to 57 GWh, and this would come online in about 2022. That amount is trivial compared to BCHydro’s total energy needs, and there were numerous questions as to the viability of this project, given the small capacity. The anticipated costs are up to $100 Million for construction. This actually sounds small to me, given that what they are proposing is to build a new intake at the surface of the lake, a vertical shaft through the mountain to a new generation facility underground near the foot of the Cleveland Dam.

Somehow, Metro will also find an operator who is willing to take a back seat to drinking water supplies. The speakers were adamant that drinking water will be the top priority. In a year when we have had almost no rain from July through mid-October, and the reservoirs are sitting around 60% full, one wonders just how much power generation we will be able to pull out of the dams if drinking water is the priority.

One of the principle benefits the region is using to sell the idea is that if we even out the flow to 2.3 cubic meters per second, we will not only generate some electricity, we will also maintain a good level for recreational uses, Furthermore, evening out the flow is better for fish. Pulling the intake to the lake surface also means the water will be warmer, making it a better habitat for fish.

One interesting statistic from Mayor Mussatto’s presentation was that water consumption has dropped significantly this year. FRom an average of 2 billion Litres per day last year, we are apparently sitting at 1.56 billion Litres per day this year. I guess all those low-flow toilets are starting to pay off.