Feature Story                                                                     Tuesday, March 14, 2017



On the Water Front

Pipeline plan over aquifer still up in the air

Ian Stephen Stephen, Waterwealth/Voice file photo


Hope Slough. Below Ian Stephen speaks at a 2015 protest rally.


aybe there is infrastructure more critical than drinking water, and if there is, I'd be interested to hear what it is.” So said Chilliwack City Councillor Jason Lum.


Few would disagree, yet the healthy abundant fresh water we have always enjoyed in the Fraser Valley is under many stresses, to name a few:

• Chilliwack revised bylaws in response to water bottling companies that wanted to draw quantities that would have strained the city system.

• The Vedder River, the main source of recharge to the aquifer that supplies Chilliwack’s drinking water, is declining and glaciers that feed into the system from Washington State remain unmapped.


• A 63-year-old heavy oil pipeline runs right across what is now Chilliwack’s protected groundwater zone
and near Chilliwack and Yarrow wells. Trans Mountain wants to add a second, larger pipe to the same route.

• Precipitation patterns are changing. Despite some record snowfalls, snowpacks–the water banked for
later in the year–remain below normal in most of BC.

• A large-scale fish die-off in Hope Slough heightened concerns about surface waterway health. Salmon runs remain unpredictable with high temperatures impacting even runs that enter the rivers strong.

• Population growth adds demand for freshwater just as supplies are uncertain.

Against the milieu of challenges we have BC’s new Water Sustainability Act, which came into effect just over a year ago, but for which regulations are still being developed.

“The Water Sustainability Act has the potential to be truly world-leading,” said Ian Stephen, Program Director of the Chilliwack-based WaterWealth Project. “but how it plays out depends on regulations still in development. Earlier phases demonstrated exemplary public consultation by the BC government. British Columbians need to continue to be engaged on this if we are to achieve the potential of this new law.”

While the province is updating its water law, law in which the province claims all right to water is vested in the Crown, so First Nations are putting their own water laws to paper. The Nadleh Whut’en and Stellat’en First Nations were reportedly the first to declare Aboriginal water laws.


They are by no means the only First Nations to have declared or be developing their own water laws, perhaps driven in part by the province’s failure to match public consultation with robust First Nations consultation in development of the Water Sustainability Act.


For more information about WaterWealth visit here.


All Candidates Meeting March 22, 2017
With water vital to life and lifestyle, the WaterWealth Project, Council of Canadians Chilliwack Chapter, Friends of Camp-Hope Slough, and Canadian Freshwater Alliance invite residents of Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Kent to the first all-candidates meeting of the 2017 BC election. On World Water Day, Wednesday March 22, 6:30 to 8:30 pm bring your questions and concerns to the Sto:lo Research and Resource Management Centre, Building 10, 7201 Vedder Rd, Chilliwack, and hear where your candidates stand on these and other critical issues.


This event is being held on unceded Stó:lō territory. All are welcome.





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