Several improvements to East Sooke’s drinking water system could cost $160 million, a recent report estimates.
The Capital Regional District commissioned a study last summer to investigate water servicing options to expand the Juan de Fuca Water Distribution System in the Seatree, Anderson Cove and Mount Matheson areas.
“Results indicate that the expansion is administratively feasible but would require significant and costly infrastructure to service properties to current zoning,” the report said.
The costs to upgrade four designated areas range from $16 million to $57 million and don’t include individual property hookups.
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“It’s a very expensive proposition to extend water to an area that doesn’t have water now,” said Coun. Kevin Pearson, Sooke’s representative on the Juan de Fuca Water Commission.
The areas examined in the study included Sooke to Anderson Cove, Anderson Cove to Gillespie Road, Sooke to East Sooke Road and Extension to the Sooke boundary.
The study explored several options to provide potable water to a population of 624 to 3,133 in East Sooke with the intention of increasing the service population to 5,923.
“As a general rule, CRD water will provide water if there are enough people who want it, but you will have to pay for it,” said Al Wickheim, the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director.
“People in East Sooke say they want water cheaper, but they don’t want anyone else to move here to pay for it.”
East Sooke has faced the issue of safe and accessible water for decades, but now it’s even more urgent because of climate change.
Wickheim said due to the demand for housing and climate change, wells are getting drier sooner and staying drier longer.
Hooking up to the water system is prohibitive, ranging from $45,000 to $77,000 per property if water is available.
“You could have high-density housing that could reduce hookup costs per house, but with that is the overall demand,” Wickheim said. “If rain is not happening here to fill your well, it’s also not happening at Sooke Lake. We’re all in the same boat here.”
Wickheim is promoting water conservation to solve the water woes in East Sooke. He hopes to apply for grants to build rainwater catchment systems for residents not on piped water.
There are huge ramifications for Sooke, too.
The report suggested that 2,700 homes could be added in north Sooke and parts of East Sooke.
“Traditionally, Sooke has centred significant growth in the sewer-specified area. This growth is definitely outside that area. That’s a big implication for the municipality for water servicing,” Pearson said.
Sooke, East Sooke, Colwood, Metchosin and View Royal receive water from the Juan de Fuca Water Distribution System. With 15 storage reservoirs, 37 pumping stations, 435 kilometres of water main, 6,158 valves, 1,558 fire hydrants and more than 18,000 retail water meters, the system services approximately 60,000 customers.