Moratoriums Be Gone – The 50,000,000+ Gallon Question

The following is an open letter to the Board of Trustees of the North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD) Board.

Warning – The following contains an in-depth analysis of data and may lead to your eyes glazing over. If you feel signs of drowsiness, please skip to the Conclusion Questions section.


November 29, 2019

To – North Salt Spring Waterworks District Trustees Chris Dixon, Les Howell, Gary Gagne, Michael McAllister and Sandra Ungerson

Re – NSSWD Moratoriums

Dear Trustees,

North Salt Spring Waterworks District’s moratorium on water supply was “effectively” placed into effect in March 2014, when it did not approve water supply for the CRD’s Drake Road, 80 unit, affordable housing project.

On October 1, 2014 the Board officially declared a moratorium on any further applications until such time as the hydrology studies (were) completed and studied, a demand analysis completed, and other agencies consulted with.”

Lake Maxwell Moratorium

In April 2015 the detailed hydrology study, by engineering firm Kerr Wood Leidal, on Lake Maxwell ( was received by the Board.

With respect to the Lake Maxwell system, the hydrology study concluded/recommended that the “withdrawal from the lake would have to be limited to 72% of the licenced withdrawal limit such that the lake could refill the year following the 10-year return period drought.”


Based on the outcome of the hydrological and water balance analysis carried out for Maxwell Lake, we recommend that:

  1. Withdrawals from Maxwell Lake be capped at 72% of the licenced withdrawal limit (477,900 m3) such that inflow from Larmour Creek, Rippon Creek and Maxwell Lake watersheds can refill Maxwell Lake after 10-year drought conditions;
  2. The cap should remain in-place until such time that sufficient data is collected at Maxwell Lake to complete a multi-year drought analysis;
  3. NSWWD consider installing water level sensors to record lake level, spillway outflow level and Rippon Creek Parshall flume level to provide continuous hydrometric records at the lake for operations purposes as well as to provide average daily record which can be used for future multiyear water balance assessment;
  4. Once sufficient data has been collected at Maxwell Lake, carry out a multi-year drought analysis to assess if multiple years of Larmour Creek, Rippon Creek and Maxwell Lake watershed inflow could refill Maxwell Lake after 10-year return period drought conditions; and
  5. Using hydrometric data collected; conduct a review of Maxwell Lake water balance at regular intervals (approximately every 10 years) to assess potential future impacts to water availability as a result of changing climate and changes in water withdrawal.

License and Withdrawals

The total water license on Lake Maxwell is 146,000,000 gallons per year (“GPY”).

72% of that is 105,123,303 GPY.

According to the 2015 hydrology study, from 2010-2013 the average “Bulk Withdrawal” (“BW”) which was withdrawn from the Lake was 73,126,011 GPY.

In 2013, the BW amount was 63,077,000 GPY which also included 15,674,426 gallons which were considered “losses.”

In other words, in 2013, only 47,402,574 gallons were “consumed” by ratepayers…the rest of the water leaked out of the system or was utilized for system functions such as flushing. The “consumption” or “metered” figures are based on how much water flows through each Ratepayer’s water meter.

Earlier this year (2019) NSSWD contracted with Westbrook Consulting an “Analysis of Potential Demand of Undeveloped Properties” ( ) Its stated purpose was to estimate the additional water supply required to service 65 additional single family and multifamily properties in existence within the Lake Maxwell serviced area. That additional demand was calculated to be 2,347,530 GPY.

Analysis of Available Data

Which brings us to present day, and, my following analysis of the underlying, and updated, data for the Maxwell system.

I extracted the annual BW data for 2013-2018 from the studies and NSSWD’s annual audited water reports.( )

NSSWD Data - 2010 - 2018

I found the average BW’s has dropped significantly from 73,126,011 GPY in 2010-2013 (average 4 year as reported in the Kerr Wood Leidel 2015 Hydrology Study) to a 5 year average of just 50,085,220 GPY, in 2014-2018, and just 47,926,325 GPY in 2015-18.

Most of that drop was a result of a rather staggering, but pleasant, 14,025,309 gallon reduction in “losses.” (In 2013 losses were 15,674,426 GPY compared to just 1,649,117 GPY in 2018).

It was reported by Staff to the Board on December 17, 2014 that, “The control valve that was installed at the Ganges Hill tanks to eliminate tank overflow has reduced daily flows by 30 to 40,000 imp gallons/day. The crew has recorded flow below 100,000 imp gallons/day.”

Annualized, 30 to 40 thousand gallons equates to 10,950,000 to 14,600,000 GPY.

NOTE – This information, reported in December 2014, was not incorporated into the Kerr Leidal hydrology study, in spite of the fact the study would not be released for another 5 months (April 2015).

This drop in bulk withdrawal, due to the elimination of the tank overflow, logically alters significantly the findings and conclusions of the 2015 Keir Leidal Hydrology study, AND, the Islands Trust’s 2016 Opus Dayton Knight Water Conservation and Demand Management Plan for Salt Spring Island (the findings of which were rejected by NSSWD).

I am going to assume the balance of any drop, in consumption, was/is due to water conservation measures being taken by ratepayers due to the implemented accelerated rate structure.

Earlier this year (2019) NSSWD contracted with Westbrook Consulting an “Analysis of Potential Demand of Undeveloped Properties”. Its stated purpose was to estimate the additional water supply required to service 65 additional single family and multifamily properties in existence within the Lake Maxwell serviced area. That additional demand was calculated to be 2,347,530 GPY.

I next calculated how much “head room” water supply was left after adding together the current average BW’s (50,085,220 GPY – 2014-2018 average) PLUS the calculated potential demand (2,347,530), = 52,432,750 GPY.

52,432,750 gallons represents ONLY 35.9% of the entire licensed amount.

In other words, the average, annual amount of water being taken out of Lake Maxwell, plus the calculated future demand equals just 35.9% of the amount NSSWD is licensed to take out of the lake. This means, that there is an additional 36.1% of water left BELOW the 72% recommended restriction.

The additional 36.1% is equal to 52,706,000 GPY.

Another way of looking at is that there is over TWICE the volume currently used, which is available BELOW the 72% recommended threshold.

The proposed housing developments on Drake Road (80 units), Kanaka Road (48 units), Croftonbrook (54 units), Meadowlane (48 units), Swanson Road (6 units), Rainbow Road (2 units), Lady Minto hospital expansion, Hastings House expansion, and/or laundromat in TOTAL would perhaps amount to an additional 6,000,000 gallons per year…which would still leave 46,700,000+ GPY in reserve BELOW the 72%.

The aforenoted reductions in bulk withdrawal provide the District with a significant safety factor.

Analysis of Lake Maxwell Water Levels

The aforementioned significant decreases in withdrawals since 2013 are also evident in the historical lake level measurements.

I have overlaid the 2014-2018 bulk withdrawal data with the lake level graph from NSSWD.

Maxwell Lake Level

As shown, the drop, in withdrawals, from 58M GPY in 2014 to 48M GPY in 2018 resulted in a significant increase in lake level from 2014 to present 2019 lake level, and, are significantly above 2009 levels.

In effect, the graph shows the positive effect of the 14,000,000+ gallon leak stoppage reported in 2014.

This is further observational evidence warranting the lifting of the moratorium.

St. Mary Lake System


The 2001 Aqion Water Supply and Demand Analysis Study recommended the following actions be taken with respect to water losses from both Maxwell and St. Mary Lake systems (Note – at the time no data on losses was available from NSSWD for the St. Mary Lake system):

  1. Quantify annual flow volumes related to reservoir overflows
  2. Accumulate data on water main breaks including break frequency, pipe materials, pipe age, cause of failure, and other relevant information
  3. Replace the four aged meters in the distribution network that can no longer be calibrated
  4. Institute an annual calibration program for all water meters installed within the service area

Unfortunately St. Mary Lake losses (2013-2018) continue to hover around 25% of total BW from the lake. (2018 – 19,282,132 gallons = 26%). The amount which is lost per day is 52,827 gallons.

I am not aware of any professionally conducted acoustic leak detection study having ever been conducted on the St. Mary Lake system. The cost per mile of system, as sourced online, can be as little as $300. Assuming there is approximately 30 miles of main pipeline, the cost could be as low as $10,000 to have a study conducted. Even if it were 5 times that amount ($50,000) that cost would be recovered with just 5 new densities being created at $10,000+ Capital Expenditure Cost Charges.

The reduction of even ½ of the losses, would see about 10,000,000 gallon reduction of withdrawals, which would bring the total projected usage to about 50% of total licensed amount.

Maximum Daily Demand (MDD)

More good news. The MDD per capita has been falling significantly for the last 12 years as the combination of conservation and rate structure have taken effect.

That reduction in average per capita consumption, as shown from 2007 – 2015 is approximately 25%. Future reductions will continue as old toilets are replaced, and new construction meets higher water efficiency standards under the revised building code.


Channel Ridge and Supply

Staff have previously made the statement that NSSWD has “guaranteed” each property in the district 550 gallons/day (2500 litres/day). The alleged rationale is that the Province (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure) “require” that amount as a condition of subdivision.

That is however not true for two primary reasons.

The following is from the Ministry’s Rural Subdivision Approval Manual Water Supply

Water Supply Regardless of parcel size, assurance of an adequate supply of potable water suitable for the proposed land use is required.

Water may be supplied from:

  • individual surface sources
  • individual wells
  • on site new water system
  • extension of an existing water system

If there is no subdivision bylaw regulating proof of water supply, the Approving Officer may require proof of 2500 litres [550 gallons] per day per dwelling unit, as well as a statement from a laboratory regarding the water’s quality.

If there is a subdivision bylaw regulating proof of water supply, the proposed subdivision must comply with it.

In general, the local government determines whether the proof of water supply requirements has been met. (See “Water Systems”)

Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee Land Use Bylaw 355 includes, within the bylaw, subdivision requirements with respect to water. However, within those regulations is the following:

5.5.6 If the required amount of water cannot be supplied or if the certification, water license or confirmation referred to in Subsections 5.5.3, 5.5.4 or 5.5.5 cannot be made, the Approving Officer may nonetheless approve the subdivision if the applicant grants a covenant under the Land Title Act to the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee that restricts the development of the subdivision to the buildings, structures and uses for which the required amount of water can be supplied, licensed or certified under Subsections 5.5.3, 5.5.4 or 5.5.5.  

It is clear the Islands Trust allows the MOTI approving officer to “nonetheless approve the subdivision” in spite of a subdivision proposal not meeting the requirement for, as an example, the 1600 litres/day (350 gallons) for a single family residence required in Bylaw 355,

However, the important takeaway from this is that there is no Provincial requirement that an Improvement District MUST provide 550 gallons per day per lot on a continued basis.

Rainwater Catchment Volume Requirements for Subdivision or Construction

As to what alternative source of water an Approving Officer may accept for proof of adequate water supply, rainwater catchment has been recognized in BC as a proven source, and, in the Capital Regional District Area, which includes Salt Spring Island.

Relatively recently a subdivision of an island (with no source of water other than rainwater) within the CRD Area was approved based solely on the requirement to register on the title of each new lot, at the time of subdivision, a covenant requiring an engineered rainwater catchment system as a condition for acquiring a building permit for a residence.

The CRD Building Inspection on Salt Spring will accept a proposed engineered rainwater catchment system, with a minimum of 1500sf of catchment area, as proof of potable water supply for a residential dwelling building permit application.

The math underlying the acceptance of rainwater catchment has been overlooked by the Islands Trust and NSSWD.

1500sf x 3’ (approximate annual rainfall) = 4500 cubic feet of water x 6.22 gallons/cf = 28,000+gallons/year.

28,000gpy/365 days = 76 gallons per day.

CRD Water Districts


According to the CRD, the 6 smallest water districts within the CRD use an average of 60 gallons/day (271 litres) per residential connection/lot (NOT per occupant).

Water Consumption by smaller water districts within Southern Gulf Islands:


District Island Gallons per day per residential connection
Cedar Lane Salt Spring Island 356 L/day
Lyall Harbour/Boot Cove Saturna Island 315 L/day
Cedars of Tuam Salt Spring Island 287 L/day
Magic Lake Estates Pender Island 260 L/day
Surfside Mayne Island 220 L/day
Skana Mayne Island 190 L/day
Daily Average per Lot 271 L/day

Table 1                                   Source – Cedar Lane water service commission – 15 March 2010 – Annual Report on Operations (page 2)


Note – None of the districts have multi-family projects, and all lots are residential.


By accepting into policy that subdivision on Salt Spring could be approved by an Approving Officer on the CRD’s rainwater catchment requirements with as little as 76 gallons, then 100 gallons per day (approximate actual usage in St. Mary Lake system) would seem to be rational.

Differing Government Requirements for Water Supply

The differing requirements and actual water usage on Salt Spring are as follows:

  1. 550 gallons per day – NSSWD unwritten policy requirement (not in any NSSWD Bylaw)
  2. 350 gallons per day – Islands Trust for single family dwelling (rezoning or subdivision only)
  3. 123 gallons per day – Island Health/Ministry of Environment (225l x 2.5 residents) water license
  4. 108 gallons per day – NSSWD actual single family dwelling usage (2019 Demand Study)
  5. 96 gallons per day – NSSWD actual multi-family average usage (2019 Demand Study)
  6. 76 gallons per day – CRD rainwater catchment criteria used for subdivision and building permit (with storage)
  7. 60 gallons per day – average actual usage of 6 small water districts in Gulf Islands including two on Salt Spring

The fact that there are 7 different governmental volume requirements or actual usage statistics should give rise to discussion between the government entities.

Given CRD administers the Building Code of BC, and allows 76 gallons per day (with storage), it would be reasonable for future planning purposes, given the downward, per capita, trend in water usage reported by the District, that 100 gallons per day should be acceptable for new construction, given BC Building Code water conservation requirements.

Channel Ridge

As required volumes apply to the proposed Channel Ridge development, the existing, approved Master Development Permit was primarily approved for “building strata” units (duplexes/triplexes/quadplexes), which is NOT the subdivision of a property. A building strata is simply deposited at Land Titles and does not require the approval of a subdivision Approving Officer. The only water requirement falls to CRD at time of building permit application.

Taking the actual consumption rates from the 2019 Demand study, and applying them to Channel Ridge, which is proposed to be primarily multi-family units (MFD’s), the generalized math would be 410 units x 100 gallons per day (based on the actual 2017 usage of 108 gpd SFE and 96 MFD) = 41,000 gallons per day or about 14,000,000 GPY. That is in stark contrast to the 550 gallons per day suggested that is required = 82,307,500 GPY.

By bringing Channel Ridge back online, there is a potential for capturing approximately $3.0 million in CEC charges, which represent 60% of the estimated cost of raising the weir ($5.0 million).

Total Potential Withdrawal

By recognizing that current actual usage per SFE (100+GPD) is reasonable, NSSWD’s total annual BW from St. Mary Lake would be approximately:

6,790,168 GPY (2019 Potential Demand Study)

14,000,000+ GPY (Channel Ridge at 100 gpdu)

73,757,560 GPY Bulk Withdrawal (2017)

62,691,235 GPY Duck Creek Environmental Flow

-9,641,066+ GPY – Recapture of 50% of 2018 water loss through leak repair in system

150,906,723 GPY = 50.7% of licensed amount.


The “threshold” for withdrawal, as per the 2017 St. Mary Lake update report (Figure 4-2 below) for 95 out of 100 years is 50% of licensed amount which equals 132,253,750 gallons/year.

The additional 7% in the above scenario would potentially reduce the estimate to about 95+ out of 100 years.

You will note that the raising of the weir would not be necessary using the above scenario, since the potential yield in 95 out of 100 years is virtually identical.

NSSWD Potential Yield


St. Mary Data and Calculations

St. Mary Bulk Metered Loss Loss GPY
2013 85,053,860 62,297,983 27% 22,755,877
2014 86,074,311 64,945,923 25% 21,128,388
2015 73,256,778 56,670,008 23% 16,586,770
2016 80,619,250 56,159,761 30% 24,459,489
2017 73,757,560 54,825,530 26% 18,932,030
2018 74,229,220 54,947,088 26% 19,282,132
Average 2013-18 78,831,830 58,979,841
Buildout (2019 Demand Study) 5,024,724
Average 2013-18 83,856,554
Duck Creek 62,691,235
Total 146,547,789
Add Channel Ridge 14,000,000
Total 160,547,789
Recapture of 2018 50% Loss 9,641,066
Total projected use 150,906,723
NSSWD License 264,508,000
Percentage 57.05%
Recommended 70.40%
Buffer 13%
13% of License = Below 70.4% 34,386,040 GPY



  1. current usage per SFE and MFD (96-108 gallons per day) is a reasonable amount to use to project future usage,
  2. total projected demand at current usage plus projected usage represents only 35.7% of total licensed amount of Lake Maxwell and 57% of St. Mary,
  3. a 95-98 year out of 100 year projection is within a reasonable margin of error,
  4. Mary Lake and Maxwell have sufficient supply to lift the moratorium,
  5. over the past 5 years the MDD per capita has been reduced by 25%,
  6. Lake Maxwell lake levels have increased during the summer months due to the leaks being decreased by 14,000,000 gallons per year.
  7. An acoustic leak detection survey of the St. Mary Lake system could be completed at relatively low cost, which could be recaptured through Capital Expenditure Cost charges, with potentially a significant reduction in bulk withdrawals,
  8. Ratepayers are facing significant increases in taxation as a result of planned upgrades and improvements and the Board should be actively working to allow increased densities in both systems in order to capture CEC charges to offset future proposed tax increases.

Questions Arising From Conclusions

In 2014, as Ratepayers, we were informed the moratorium would be in effect until, “hydrology studies (were) completed and studied, a demand analysis completed, and other agencies consulted with.”

Since then, the hydrology studies were completed and studied, a demand analysis has been performed, updates to St. Mary hydrology study completed, and other agencies have been consulted with. We now have sufficient data.

In addition, since 2014, 14,000,000+ gallons per year of losses have been turned into 14,000,000 gallons of additional available supply in the Maxwell system.

Over the past 5 years, as ratepayers, we have been led to believe there is insufficient water supply to service new development within the Maxwell system. This is in spite of over a 50,000,000+gallon buffer contained within the 2015 KWL hydrology study’s 72% threshold of licensed supply.

Over the past 5 years the MDD per capita has been reduced by 25%, Lake Maxwell lake levels have increased during the summer months.

The data clearly show we are using less than ½ of the 72% conservative recommendation for withdrawal, and that over 50,000,000 gallons are available for use.

As a result of the moratorium, the District has denied several dozen applications for service, including several housing proposals in Ganges. Those denials have resulted in (a) significant ($1.5-2.0 million) Capital Expenditure Cost revenue not being realized, and (b) significant parcel tax and water usage revenue not being captured ($30-40,000/year).

As a ratepayer I am left with the following questions:

  1. If the District, CONSERVATIVELY (considering the 72% recommended withdrawal limit), now has over 50 million gallons excess water supply, which is significantly more than reported in the 2015 Hydrology study, on what scientific basis, or study(ies), or findings or rationale, is there still a moratorium on the Lake Maxwell water supply, which includes almost all of Ganges (south of Country Grocer)?
  1. If, based on observed actual consumption rates (100GPD) St. Mary Lake has sufficient supply to project a 50%+ of license scenario, why is there still a moratorium on that system’s area?
  2. Does the NSSWD Board have a fiduciary duty to existing Ratepayers to:
    1. supply water to properties with development potential within the Maxwell system IF supply (below the 72% conservative threshold), is available?
    2. realize potential Capital Expenditure Cost charges of $1.5-2,000,000+ (150-200 affordable housing dwelling units, or hospital expansion, etc. all proposed within the Ganges area serviced by Lake Maxwell), which would help to offset costs to Ratepayers?
    3. increase tax roll revenue by providing service to 150-200 SFD equivalents ($30-40,000+ year), thereby reducing the existing tax burden on Ratepayers?
    4. offset planned/proposed (2022) Lake Maxwell system treatment (est. $5,000,000) with capturing CEC charges through the lifting of the moratorium?


The above evidence indicates the moratorium should/can now be lifted.

Thank you for your attention and I look forward to your response.

Eric Booth,

for Salt Spring Ventures Inc.,

NSSWD Ratepayer



  1.  $50,000 in legal fees is now budgeted for 2020…assume it is for the Channel Ridge lawsuit. (Source )
  2.  2020 parcel taxes up by 2% and in the range of $700/year average.
  3.  November 8, 2019 a Notice of Intention to Proceed was filed in the Channel Ridge Properties (Onni)/Paradigm Mortgage lawsuit against NSSWD/Salt Spring Local Trust Committee/Salt Spring Water Preservation Society. It appears the suit is moving forward at the moment.

One Response to Moratoriums Be Gone – The 50,000,000+ Gallon Question

  1. Pingback: Salt Spring is Burning… | islandstrust

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