January 29, 2015

SFU Research Presentation in January

SSI Water Council Society, in partnership with Islands Trust, supported the thesis work of Simon Fraser University graduate student Isabelle Larocque focussing on “The Hydrogeology of Salt Spring Island” under the supervision of Dr. Diana Allen.

We are pleased to invite you to attend a public meeting of the Water Council Society for an account of finished and future work presented by Professor Allen and her research team.

When: at 2 pm on January 27, 2015
at the Fritz Theatre.

We hope to see you there. This meeting is open to the public, so please feel free to circulate this information.

Link to: Thesis summary by Dr. Diana Allen (PDF)

Thesis précis:

Isabelle Larocque’s 255 page thesis, with 34 tables and 85 figures, focusses on assessing the sensitivity of our island coastal aquifer to stressors that include sea level rise, changes in precipitation, and development related to pumping from wells. This work is a continuation of research by Dr. Allen into the groundwater hydrology of the Gulf Islands. The research gives us new quantitative data on which to base planning for future demands on our water resource. Findings from the thesis work include:

  • The aquifer on Salt Spring Island consists of a network of fractures in sedimentary rocks of the Nanaimo Group in the north part of the island and fractures in older granitic, volcanic, and sedimentary rocks in the south part of the island.
  • Recharge of the groundwater is entirely through precipitation and the chemistry of the water is the result of chemical interaction between the rocks and the water. Ion exchange reactions involving sodium and calcium dominate in the Nanaimo rocks, but not in the older rocks of the south end.
  • Discharge of the precipitation is achieved by surface runoff, evaporation, subsurface flow of groundwater to the sea, and by pumping. The overall distribution of groundwater flow is outlined from an analysis of water table data from wells and shows island-scale groundwater and flow directions. These are controlled mainly by topography. Future studies of the useable quantity of water on the island will be aided by this island-scale analysis.
  • Pump tests on Salt Spring Island are analysed, including results from other Gulf Islands and combined with analysis of well responses to tidal fluctuations to determine representative hydraulic properties of the aquifer. Average hydraulic properties are summarised and it is interesting that the properties on Salt Spring Island are similar to those on the other islands and that they are not widely different for the different rock types. This suggests that properties derived for Salt Spring Island may be of wide application and that future hydrologic modelling will be a promising avenue to pursue. The tables of data constitute a valuable resource for future work.
  • The effect of tidal variation on groundwater flow was studied using the Swan Point area near Booth Canal and a combination of numerical modelling and calibration from existing well data. An interesting and unexpected result has been that the salt-fresh interface is steep in this area of high topographic relief but that strong pumping may result in salt intrusion. Areas of low topographic relief may still have a shallow saltwater lens at depth.

In summary, the research provides solid new data on the hydrologic properties of Salt Spring Island aquifers, it provides an island-wide model of the general behaviour of the island’s groundwater, and assesses the potential future effects of sea level rise. The fresh-salt interface is shown to be steep in areas of high topographic relief and is expected to be shallow in areas of low relief.

The Water Council Society is grateful to the LTC for their support of this research and particularly grateful to Professor Allen for her continuing work in the Gulf Islands and on Salt Spring Island particularly.



Click here to complete the OPT-IN to emails form.

Seeking Rainwater Collection Examples on Salt Spring

A Community Water Learning Event!

Proposed Rainwater Collection Tour on March 21, 2015 on SSI:

Do you have a rainwater collection system and live on Salt Spring island?

Do you use your rainwater for your garden, or do you store and treat rainwater for use as a potable source? Or do you have an innovative grey water system to reuse some of the water that goes down the drains with your perennials or lawn? Do it yourself, low or high tech – as long as it is reliably functioning.

If you are interested in showcasing your system and teaching others about it, please contact Sharon Bywater to get involved in a World Water Day event in March 2015.

Sharon (250) 537-5000.

Island Health report on improving drinking water. Dec. 2, 2014

On December 2, 2014 Island Health Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick released a report that measures progress towards ensuring all residents and visitors to the region receive drinking water from supply systems that meet North American expectations for water quality.

The success of our drinking water program relies on public health staff and drinking water providers who apply their expertise to addressing local drinking water issues,” Stanwick noted in the report.  

“The consequences of failing to ensure high quality water are always on the minds of those whose role it is to protect this precious resource,” he added.

The report makes 32 recommendations to ensure quality of drinking water — addressing health protection at all stages from the source of the water to the tap. The report also acknowledges the wide range in the size of water systems from wells that are shared by a few families to large operations that serve the Island’s cities and surrounding communities.  

Read the report: Water,Water Everywhere (PDF)

Drought: 2014

The Ministry of the Environment declared a third level drought for the Gulf Islands and Southern Vancouver Island in August. A level 3 drought calls for a 20% reduction in water usage by home owners, businesses and agriculture. Fish, particularly salmon, have had difficulty returning to their breeding grounds.

Robert Watson in his “What If: Future Water Supply and Demand Alternatives” study of the available water on Salt Spring Island looked at the possibility of severe drought for the North Salt Spring Water District and the rest of Salt Spring Island. He examined the possibilities of 1-in-25-year droughts, 1-in-50-year droughts and multi-year 1-in-25-year droughts. He concluded that 1-in-25-year droughts may become more and more frequent and we must prepare for longer hotter summers. We may have experienced a 1-in-25-year drought this year.

Preparing for Droughts

Now is the time to prepare for next year. Although the average Salt Spring resident uses less water than the average British Columbian, we still waste a lot of water. If you are part of a water supply system, you already know how much water you use by the size of your bill. For those off the grid, buying and installing a water meter to monitor your water use is relatively inexpensive. It is also possible to buy a water meter for your hose to find out how much water goes to your garden.

Reducing Waste

The biggest water wasters are the old 13- to 20-litre toilets, therefore, the best way to save water is to replace all your old toilets with low flush toilets that use 6 litres or less per flush. Showers and baths are the second highest household water consumer. Assuming a 20-litre per minute shower head and 5-minute showers for mom and dad, 10-minute showers for the teenager, and filling an average-sized bathtub 2/3 full for the younger child, a family of four can easily use 200,000 litres of water per year. Using a reduced flow shower head cuts water usage—if showers are not extended.

Family members showers/week baths/week annual water use



38,064 litres



36,400 litres
Young child



20,592 litres



104,000 litres



199,056 litres

Hamilton: A Guide to Wise Water Use 2007

Recycling Water

Using grey water (recycled bath and sink water) in our toilets cuts water usage by as much as 50%. In addition, septic systems improve with less water flowing through them. A rainwater catchment system is not inexpensive, but if properly designed and filled, it can water your garden without using potable water. The Water Council website has information about Rainwater Harvesting.


Outdoor Conservation

A further step in water conservation is to install a drip technology watering system in your garden. The SSI Water Council held a workshop on Garden Irrigation in the spring of 2014. The Water Council website has a description of the different methods described by our speakers including one whose cost is minimal if you cement pipes together. Another approach is to review your garden and the plants you love to determine how much water they consume. Over time you can move to less thirsty or to indigenous plants to save water.

December 5, 2014 Meeting

The SSI Water Council meeting will take place at 10 am on December 5, 2014 at Central Hall.

Click here for Agenda and other details.

Grant Received – November 2014

Great News!

In August we submitted an application for a Community Gaming Grant.
We have just been notified that SSI Water Council has been granted $3,600 towards our 2015 programs.
$1,800 for the Potable Water Workshops/Open Houses, to help pay for hall rental, communications and other costs essential for the delivery of the program.
$1,800 for the Potable Water Forums, to help pay for staff wages, insurance and other costs essential for the delivery of the program.

Water Sustainability Act 2014

Watch the PowerPoint on the Water Sustainability Act by Pat Lapcevic, Water Protection Section Head, West Coast Region, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Operations

Water Sustainability Act 2014 (PPT)