Comox Valley Local Governments Working Together on Water Infrastructure Liability
Convening for Action in the Comox Valley
Water in the Comox Valley region may appear in abundant supply but the four local governments are challenged with providing the necessary infrastructure to ensure a reliable and clean source of water at a reasonable cost. The challenge stems from the way that such infrastructure is financed, generally through development contributions. These generally only finance the upfront costs of getting the pipes in the ground, not the on-going costs of maintaining this infrastructure for up to 100 years and then replacing it.
The split is generally known as the 20:80 split: the initial capital cost of infrastructure is about 20% of the life-cycle cost; the other 80% largely represents a future unfunded liability. This is a challenge for many communities in the province.
Regional Team Approach
The four Comox Valley local governments have been working at collaborative approaches to address this and other water related planning issues in the Valley through the formation of CAVI: Convening for Action on Vancouver Island – Leadership in Water Sustainability. Commencing in 2007, CAVI is a regional pilot that is being implemented under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia. This program has a goal of achieving settlement in balance with ecology, beginning with water-centric planning.
But the initiative doesn’t stop at the local government table. CAVI encourages collaborative working relationships with the development community and other groups working in land development. This spring the Comox Valley CAVI chapter will be hosting a three-part seminar series to explore how to address water infrastructure liability as well as rainwater management in a way that is consistent with the long range vision of the valley.
“The recent adoption of the Regional Growth Strategy now confirms the vision for a sustainable Comox Valley. The work being done through groups like CAVI moves this vision to implementable solutions,” says Jack Minard, Executive Director of the Comox Valley Land Trust.
The sessions will explore the many ways that water must be addressed when planning communities. “There are many different facets to managing water sustainably in our communities,” says Glenn Westendorp, Town of Comox Public Works Superintendent, and Chair for the 2011 Seminar Series. “In the winter months we have the challenge of too much water. Rain that falls from the sky must be appropriately drained from sites so that it does not have negative downstream impacts to our natural streams and fish habitats. In the summer the opposite is true: not enough water reaches our streams in some cases due to existing land development.”
“And then of course there is the issue of potable water which is what we all use every day in our homes, lawns and gardens. Providing this water comes at a cost and we see the highest demands for potable water at a time when supply is at its lowest,” adds Kevin Lagan, Director of Operational Services with the City of Courtenay.
CAVI has been provincially recognized for its collaborative approach. The BC Water and Waste Association, a provincial organization that safeguards public health and the environment, has awarded the Comox Valley CAVI chapter the 2011 Leadership in Water Sustainability Award. The award recognizes those who are leading the way and demonstrating overall commitment to water sustainability in their governance, administration, operations, education, culture and outreach.
Posted April 2011