The Village of Ashcroft has developed a Water Master Plan, designed to deal with necessary changes and upgrades to the Village’s water supply system and facilities over the next few years.
“It’s been a big project,” said Ashcroft Administrator Michelle Allen. “We had to do a lot of studies for it, and it’s taken a few years.” She said they studied the placement of the water intake, the stability of the river and many other things.
The most pressing change on the horizon is the need to change to a water filtration system. The Village currently uses chlorination to treat water, but the Interior Health Authority has determined that turbidity levels in the Thompson River for much of the year are high enough that chlorination on its own is no longer sufficient.
A turbidity rating of 0–1 is considered good, while 1–5 is fair, and anything over 5 warrants a boil water advisory. From mid-April, when run-off starts, until October the turbidity level in Ashcroft is 1 or higher. Allen said it is only a matter of time before the IHA orders the Village to upgrade to a filtration system.
“We’re not waiting for their deadline,” she said, “we’re being proactive.” To that end the Village is preparing an application for a grant from the Building Canada Fund to assist with the projected $8.6 million cost of the changes. If successful, the grant would see the cost split equally between the federal, provincial, and municipal governments. Approximately $350,000 from the Village’s Gas Tax Fund would be used to help pay the municipal share of the cost, with the rest coming from future revenues and an increase in water utility rates. The cost of water currently stands at $274 per year per property, and this would rise to approximately $400 per year by 2019, when it is hoped the new water system will be up and running. Allen said that the increase would be phased in gradually, and that the additional revenue would be used to provide sustainable funding for the future, as well as for paying the debt.
The new system would use a combination of filters, UV, and some chlorinaton to treat the water. In addition to this new filtration system, the Village would also take the opportunity to upgrade existing portions of the water system. The reservoir serving North Ashcroft is undersized and does not meet current standards, while water pressure needs to be increased to the fire hydrant system on the Mesa to make it more effective. Some of the trunkmains are now approaching the end of their useful lives, while the entire system contains aging infrastructure which needs to be renewed or replaced.
The new system would also be designed for potential population growth, she said. For example, filtration and UV could have components added at a later time to expand the system’s capabilities.
The Building Canada Fund receives many more applications than it has funds available, and the Village intends to file an application as soon as this year’s processing window opens. Allen pointed out that the Village is much more likely to be successful in obtaining funding if it is proactive, adopts a sustainable water plan, and shows that it is managing its water use.
She said there is a component of the Water Master Plan that talks about water metering being phased in down the road. It would start with commercial and industrial water users and then spread to residential users.
Generally, said Allen, the feedback at the July 19 Open House for the Water Master Plan was that people wanted their local municipal water managed because they see a lot of it being wasted.
“People want safe, clean drinking water,” said Allen, “and they realize that a cost increase goes hand in hand with that.”
She said most people were fine with that as long as the cost was affordable.
Of the new water system, she said general consensus at the Open House was that “they were tired of the water quality advisories going up and down because of turbidity.”
Applications to the Building Canada Fund are only accepted once the government announces it. Allen said the next grant intake is expected early in 2015, which means those applications that are accepted won’t be announced until 2016, ensuring that construction on a new water system couldn’t get underway until 2016 at the earliest.
It is not unusual that planning for a new municipal water system can take several years before the system is actually in place.