Comox Lake Water System serves 60% of the population residing in the Comox Valley
Comox Lake Water System
Water originates in Comox Lake, is taken from the Puntledge River downstream of the lake, and delivered to some 40,400 people. This is about 60% of the total population residing within the CVRD.
In addition to being a drinking water source, Comox Lake is used for power generation by BC Hydro, maintenance of fish hatcheries by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, recreation by anglers, boaters and swimmers.
The Comox Lake service population includes approximately 23,100 residents in the City of Courtenay and almost 13,300 water users in the Town of Comox.
Comox Lake Watershed Assessment
Because Comox Lake is an unprotected watershed, the Comox Lake Watershed Assessment was initiated in 2006 to address public health concerns. This was the first watershed assessment to be completed in British Columbia in accordance with the then-new drinking water source to tap guidelines.
“In 2006, continued urbanization within the valley coupled with competing land uses and recreational interests within the watershed highlighted the need for co-operative actions aimed at managing watershed uses ….. to ensure water quality is preserved,” states Michael Zbarsky, Engineering Analyst with the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD).
“The Watershed Assessment identified actions to mitigate high level risks or threats to the current and future quality of the water. The CVRD is currently proceeding with engineering studies that build on the technical foundation provided by that body of work.”
Vancouver Island Health Authority
In July 2008, VIHA (i.e. the Vancouver Island Health Authority) notified the CVRD of their new water treatment standards policy for surface water supplies. This policy is known by the acronym 4-3-2-1, which is a way of expressing the technical requirements for a multiple-barrier approach to public health protection.
Under the 4-3-2-1 policy, filtration and/or watershed protection are usually required in addition to disinfection, unless specific exclusion criteria are met.
“Because order-of-magnitude cost estimates are in the $30M to $60M range for filtration, CVRD is investigating all its options,” reports Kevin Lorette, General Manager of the CVRD Property Services Branch.
Water Advisory Committee
A water management advisory committee comprising CVRD, Courtenay and Comox staff meets monthly. This committee deals with issues related to the planning, management and operation of the Comox Lake Water System. Outcomes are then fed into the CVRD Board decision process via the elected representatives on the Water Committee.
“The profile and importance of water in the Comox Valley is underscored by the fact that the chief administrative officers and the directors of engineering and finance for the three local governments all participate on the advisory water management committee,” notes Michael Zbarsky.
“In a very real sense, the Comox Lake advisory committee is an existing example of the regional team approach. How, and how well we collaboratively deal with water-centric issues, has a bearing on our ability to move forward effectively with integrated implementation on other fronts.”
“Our Draft Water Efficiency Plan, released in June 2009, provides a timely illustration of how the three jurisdictions are now working together at the regional scale in order to come up with consistent implementation strategies at the local scale.”
Understanding the Context
To learn more about the context for watershed protection, population-support capacity, infrastructure upgrading and implementation issues in the Comox Valley, click on A Regional Perspective on Water Supply in the Comox Valley.
Posted November 2009