Report on Groundwater Workshop - May 16, 2011
SATURNA ISLAND GROUNDWATER WORKSHOP
Sponsored by the Islands Trust
May 7, 2011
Table of Contents
Scope of the report……………………………………………………… p. 3
Background……………………………………………………………… p. 4
Purpose of the workshop………………………………………………. p. 5
Advertising and promotion………………………………………………. p. 5
Groundwater workshop format…………………………………………. p. 6
Facilitator’s comments on the format………………………………….. p. 7
Defining the issues……………………………………………………… p. 8
Outcome of the group discussions……………………………………. p. 8
Facilitator’s final comments and observations……………………….. p. 10
Reference materials…………………………………………………….. p. 11
Scope of this report
This is an informal report solely for the benefit of the Islands Trust, who sponsored the
Groundwater Workshop that is the subject of this report. Portions of this report may be used to
inform Saturna Island residents of the workshop.
It is not within the scope of this document to provide extensive background information,
analysis, nor to provide recommendations. I have included personal observations, thoughts and
opinions which are not intended to influence or provide direction for further initiatives on this
Gary Richardson, Island Planner, and Beverly Neff, Local Trustee, provided invaluable support
with the design and logistics of the workshop.
May 16, 2011
Box 121, Saturna Island, B.C., V0N 2Y0
Ph.: (250)539-5404 Toll free: 1-888-806-7718 Fax: (250)539-5409 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Concern over the viability of wells due to saltwater intrusion on the East Point of Saturna Island
has increased with development.
On September 15, 2010, Saturna Island Trust Committee Bylaw No. 99 was adopted, which
states in part:
A building permit shall not be issued for any residential building, visitor accommodation
unit, or addition to a residential building or visitor accommodation unit in the water
management area depicted on Schedule C unless a building on the lot is equipped with a
water catchment system and cistern(s) for the storage of rainwater.
Further efforts to deal with the issue included a proposed Development Permit Area. The
following is quoted from an Islands Trust Staff Report of October 21, 2010:
At the June 23, 2010 LTC meeting the LTC passed a resolution that: “…staff be directed to
draft an OCP amendment that would place the centre of East Point peninsula in a DPA for
the purpose of water conservation and the protection of the natural environment.”
The attached draft bylaw 102 has been drafted in response to the above resolution.
Provisions for the protection of the wetland sensitive ecosystems that are present on the
subject area have been included in the draft bylaw as staff is of the understanding that the
LTC wanted the protection of wetland ecosystems included in this DPA.
A section of draft Bylaw 102 states:
The area is referenced in a 2010 B.C. Ministry of the Environment report titled “The
Intrusion of Seawater into the Fractured Bedrock Aquifer on East Point Peninsula, Saturna
Island” as an area that recharges the groundwater aquifer. The area is also shown on
Sensitive Ecosystem (SEM) mapping as containing wetland ecosystems.
At a Local Trust meeting on Dec. 1, 2010, Draft Bylaw 102 was set aside due to a strong
reaction from a number of Saturna Islanders. The Trust then approached the issue by planning
a groundwater workshop as a first step toward increased understanding of the hydrogeology of
the area. The expectation is that local residents will take the initiative in determining how to
address their ongoing potable water needs.
A Local Trust Committee meeting on March 18, 2011, passed Resolution SA-LTC-02-2011:
It was Moved and Seconded that Saturna Island Local Trust Committee direct staff to hire
Ron Monk as Facilitator to work with the Local Trust Committee on planning a full day
workshop on groundwater issues with a focus on East Point and including guest speakers
and a forum covering the topics of hydrology, environment and regulation.
Purpose of the workshop
The intention of the workshop was to provide enough information so that residents could begin
to define the nature of the problem, and identify steps to address the issue(s).
Advertising and Promotion
Saturna Island residents and property owners were notified in the following ways:
• Posters at both island stores, the Community Hall and Recreation Centre
• Phone “trees”
• Islands Trust web site
• Saturna Island Property Owners Association (SIPOA) list serve (many East Point
property owners do not reside on the island full time – most belong to SIPOA)
• Notices placed in the post office boxes of residents
• Mailings from the Islands Trust
• E-mails from the Saturna Water Conservation Committee
• Article and notice in the monthly publication “Saturna Scribbler”
Prior to the workshop, articles and information from the speakers were available on the Islands
Trust web site and the SIPOA list serve.
Groundwater Workshop Format – Saturday, May 7, 2011
Saturna Island Community Hall
10:00 am Welcome, introduction
Purpose of workshop and introduction of speakers
10:15 1st speaker Dr. Diana Allen, P. Geo.
(Professor and Acting Chair of the Dept. of Earth Sciences at Simon Fraser
10:30 2nd speaker Pat Lapcevic, P. Geo.
(Section Head, Water Protection, Min. of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource
10:45 3rd speaker Michael Payne, P. Eng.
11:00 Discussion between first 3 speakers
11:20 Quick Break
11:30 4th speaker Erwin Dyck (VIHA)
11:45 5th speaker Janet Land
(Saturna Water Conservation Committee)
12:00 6th speaker Mary Cooper **
(Mayne Island Integrated Water Systems Society)
12:15 7th speaker Gary Richardson (Islands Trust)
12:35 Light Lunch provided
1:05 pm Introduction to the afternoon sessions
1:15 pm Panel (question and answer period)
1:45 Break (incl. tea, coffee)
2:00 Small group discussions
3:10 Feedback from small groups, clarify issues and identify “next steps”
** Ill – could not attend. See her speaking notes (attached under “Reference Materials”)
Facilitator’s Comments on the format
The format of the workshop worked well. Following a brief introduction by Chairman Peter
Luckham, I clarified the purpose of the day and attended to housekeeping items, etc.
The 15 minutes allotted to each speaker seemed appropriate. The intention was to touch on the
main points of their information, and for some speakers, refer to their research. In order to
capitalize on the expertise of the three “experts” (Diana Allen, Pat Lapcevic and Michael Payne),
a 20 minute “kitchen table discussion” between them allowed the audience to “listen in” to their
comments about the implications of their research on our (islander’s) deliberations. This proved
very fruitful – thanks to Bev Neff for the idea!
The remaining three speakers rounded out the information with health considerations, water
conservation and regulatory tools. Unfortunately, Mary Cooper from Mayne Island was ill and
could not attend. See her speaking notes under “Reference Materials” in this report.
Due to Ms. Cooper’s absence and the short presentations of some speakers, we were able to
convene the question-and-answer portion prior to lunch, and continue it after lunch. Ken
Hancock, CRD Director, joined the speakers to answer any questions regarding matters relating
to Regional District jurisdiction. Total time for questions and answers was just under an hour,
which was ample.
It was noted that there were some 70 people from all over the island attending the morning
sessions. Following the half hour lunch, some people left. However, those attending from East
Point stayed the course.
After the question-and-answer period, small groups were convened to discuss what they had
heard, identify the specific issue(s), and determine next steps. Groups were created at random
by the use of a coloured dot stuck to each program. As with any groupings, some followed the
directions, some came up with solutions and some were dominated by strong personalities.
Most of the discussions were fruitful. One hour was allotted, which gave enough time for all
groups to conclude. While people could switch groups after the first half hour, everyone stayed
in their original groups. This despite one person’s request, prior to the group discussions, that
East Point property holders form one group.
Feedback from the groups followed, and the workshop was wrapped up by 4:00 pm.
Defining the Issue(s)
The goal is to secure a sustainable supply of water for East Point property owners
What was clear from the speakers:
There are too many people in the area, and too many wells close together, to support
the use of ground water as the sole means of water supply.
The main impediment is salty water in wells.
Some wells have low capacity.
The situation will be aggravated due to the combined effect of pumping from many wells,
drawing salty water into some wells and reducing the fresh water “lens”.
Recharge is limited.
There is lot of water available, just not in the ground. Therefore, there is a problem with
storage, not supply.
Everyone is responsible for utilizing this precious resource wisely.
The solution rests with individuals.
Outcome of the Group Discussions
Jenna Foster, the scribe for the day, may have a more complete summary of what the various
tables said. Here are notes that I wrote on flip charts as each table gave a synopsis of their
discussions, unedited and in no apparent order (note repeating ideas/themes):
storage (vs. supply)
sustainable water supply (well and catchment)
management is an island-wide issue but East Point is the priority
“supportive” regulations (bylaws, water act)
for the Preliminary Layout Approval of a subdivision, if the approving officer requires
proof of potable water as a condition, a well may be dug (unnecessary cost/well?)
need information re: well use (Metering? Testing? Shutoff?)
need Trust, others in advocacy role (Note: Islands Trust committed to advocate to other
agencies/levels of government)
Problem: Demand exceeds supply
Solution(s): multi-level, multi-pronged; general education; shallower sip system well
pumps; roof catchment systems; storage of water to buffer demand (both potable and
non); CRD fair regulations imposed to reduce financial burdens
pumping in winter/spring only
use of drainage water
neighbourhood information groups
prevention re: leaks
community water system
information sent to membership of Community Club, SIPOA, Water Conservation
Committee, other organizations
funding info/resources (CRD, E.Pt. W.I.D.)
continued study (eg. Dr. Allen)
Mayne Island monitoring network
(Note: Diana Allen agreed to help with monitoring)
Facilitator’s final comments and observations
When presented with a problem, it is natural to gravitate toward a solution. But premature
solutions can create divisiveness. My use of the term, “premature solutions” includes suggested
outcomes, and/or lack of consultation of those who would be affected by an outcome. Rather
than become polarized by premature solutions, it is important to first consult East Point property
owners so that their input is noted and considered prior to determining outcomes.
There was a suggestion at the Groundwater Workshop that East Pointers get together in a
group. Now is the time. Solutions will likely be multi-pronged, and endeavours such as Jude
White’s e-mail regarding the Rainwater Catchment Collective is the type of initiative that could
form a part of a larger plan. The purpose of that particular group is to get together to
discuss issues surrounding rain water catchment and possibly find ways to lessen the costs of
the maintenance of catchment systems.
Whatever emerges, it would be crucial that all information regarding water issues be relayed to
East Point residents and to real estate agents* who have listings at East Point. The Water
Conservation Committee, SIPOA and Saturna Community Club are organizations that can
inform members, although I’m not sure if the Community Club has a specific member’s e-mail
list. Suspicions of one group’s motivations by another could be minimized with regular
communication between the various groups. The SIPOA site is a forum that reaches a large
number of off-island property owners. As a forum, readers and contributors of postings need to
separate fact from personal opinions. Both can be accommodated on the site, but hopefully not
confused. Monthly Scribbler articles would also be helpful.
It is now up to those who have been, or will be affected, to act.
* I have spoken to Susanne Middleditch of Gulfport/Saturna island Real Estate and she is very
open with potential buyers about the water situation, as she will end up as a neighbor if they
buy. However, she does not know what off-island realtors say to clients.
Minutes of the Saturna Island Groundwater Workshop (J. Foster/Islands Trust)
“The Intrusion of Seawater into the Fractured Bedrock Aquifer on East Point Peninsula, Saturna Island
(January, 2010 - Pat Lapcevic and Jillian Kelly, B.C. Ministry of Environment)
“Results of the Groundwater Geochemistry Study on Saturna Island, British Columbia “ Final Report
(June 2001 - Prepared by: D.M. Allen and M. Suchy, Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser
University, Burnaby, B.C.)
The above three documents are available on the Trust web site, along with others. The following
documents are informal and not available on the Trust site, so are included as part of this report. They
are not intended to be given any more, or less credence than the reports noted above.
Outline of Michael Payne’s Talk for May 7 Groundwater Workshop:
Discussion of Water Well Problems at East Point
What do I know about the problems?
Have consulted to East Point Ocean Cottages (the resort) for two years.
Here today under contract to the Islands Trust.
What is the problem?
Main problem is salty water in wells.
Second problem is low capacity of some wells.
My comments focus on the situation at East Point.
What is the source of the salt water?
It is a natural situation that has been made worse by actions of property owners.
Three types of water in the ground under or near an ocean island:
(1) Fresh water lens.
(2) Old stagnant salty water.
(3) Fresh ocean water.
Effect of pumping of wells.
The situation is variable - (1) spatial - (2) with depth - (3) temporal.
Why is the salt water problem getting worse?
There are several situations that can aggravate the problem, for individual wells, or for the entire of East
(1) Wells drilled too deep.
(2) Pumps set too deep in the well.
(3) Combined effect of pumping from many wells. The problem is the combined amount of
pumping, not the number of wells. Recharge is limited.
(4) Wells too close together (small lots).
(5) Too much water pumped from a single well over a short amount of time.
(6) Land development reducing ground water recharge.
(7) Other causes?
It is a natural situation that has been made worse by actions of property owners.
The points here are that:
(1) Salty water is a natural situation in that salty water can be found in many deep wells on East
Point, before any pumping of that well or pumping of nearby wells; and
(2) The collective pumping of many wells over many years has made the situation worse by
drawing salty water into some wells, and by gradually reducing the size of the “fresh water
What can we do about it?
There are several solutions, both community solutions and individual solutions.
Let’s start with the individual solutions.
• Shallow wells.
• Avoid over-pumping by having a shallow pump.
• (Should probably be a law on pump depth.)
• Use as little water as possible.
• Use storage so that wells can be pumped in the spring and then water can be
used from storage in the fall.
• Collect rainwater in storage tanks or ponds. Rainwater can be used outside
• Rainwater used indoors should be filtered and disinfected.
• Avoid large impermeable surfaces on your property.
• Other ideas? We are here to discuss it.
Now, let’s consider community solutions.
• Workshops like this one.
• A community water supply system?
• New provincial laws?
• Local bylaws?
• Let’s discuss other ideas too.
A community water system would solve the problem, but:
• Needs support of the community.
• Need funding.
• Technical problems can be solved, with community support and funding.
The very general heading in my outline is not intended to refer to any one property owner’s well or any
one property owner’s development plans or proposals.
Michael Payne, P.Eng. P.Geo.
Payne Engineering Geology
1230 Maple Road
North Saanich, BC, V8L 5P7
Mary Cooper’s Talk for May 7 Groundwater Workshop (NB: Mary was ill and could not attend. She
forwarded these notes to Trustee Bev Neff):
The short Integrated Water presentation from our website pretty much covers our mandate in a much
shorter time than I could.
From here on in, I am between a rock and a hard place. I am from the wrong island to be talking with you
about your problems. I could make like just another pretty face, but I am too long past my 'due date' for
that to fly -----or run true to the expected form and shoot myself in the foot.
I am going to take my chances with my foot.
There are no easy solutions and coming from another small Island, I know how these issues split
communities. Ultimately the decision has to be left entirely in the hands of the East Point land owners
and the Trust.
What happened at east Point was wrong. Not enforcing the legal ramifications of neglect and harm to
neighbouring wells and aquifers was wrong.
Not pushing the legal issues and being a 'feel good' neighbour is warm and snuggly, but does not make
water or compensation, or do much for your depreciated real estate values.
A DPA is a good first step for proctection of future water resources. It is fair to be considered as part of
the solution . A DPA does not impose blanket conditions over the whole the island, nor is it even a threat
to do so. It is site specific, applicable only to those in the specified area . While it is definitely difficult
for one property owner, it is for the benefit of the multiples of the balance of East Point property owners .
The method of water delivery. East Pointers have 2 ways to look—up or down. Up is the rainwater
collection. You have a few homeowners solely on that collection system now so you know whether it
works for you or it doesn't. It can be a partial solution in combination with a stressed well .
The down part is more complex. The wells that were affected by the aquifer drop, but recovered, will
forever be considered marginally reliable and drilling new individual wells would make the lottery look
like a guaranteed investment plan. If the involved property owners continue to draw from wells displaying
increasing salinity, they are are threatening the vialbility of neighbouring wells as intrusion creeps further
into the aquifers.
I've heard mention of a water system. If East Pointers elect to go this route, they face another 2 choices.
Find private funding by becoming a Society or to try the CRD route and go for grants.
In the very long term the society could be the cheapest, if they can find a reliable board of directors to
oversee the system management and hire a local part time certified watermaster.
OR --The CRD could be invited to come in and do the job, but the costs would be a nightmare and outlive
Lets discuss sources:Surface source or wells.
Surface water is the most complex and expensive source of supply for treatment. It is openly
contaminated water that requires constant filtration and chemical treatment to bring it up to acceptable
potability standards. You lose water to evaporation, -----but on the plus side, you can see when you don't
have any left---if you remember to look more often than Tofino.
If you use a lined pond, it has value for the fire dept, but little for the aquifers. Drawing from a lined pond
for potable water would be my last choice as a source------- if I lived on East Point.
An unlined dug pond has benefits if even if you choose community wells as your source, in that it
supports the recharge of aquifers while the earth purifies the water perculating into the aquifers and the
sphere of the wells .
AND ----If I lived on East Point, this is what I would specifically be aiming for. I would be pushing for 2
or 3 drilled community wells, supported by a dug unlined pond, within a water system managed by a
My bylaws would specify that connection to this system required the property owner to have minimum
2000 gal rainwater storage, all dual flush toilets, and agree to an enforced household use only for system
water, with stiff penalties for non compliance.
I would base taxes on a larger tax base for a guranteed maintenance income, a smaller consumption base,
and repayment schedule for capital costs—each item separately designated on my semi-annual bill. I
would insist on water meters to check for leaks, and not for consumption. Each home that the water mains
passed would be considered ' on the system'. Raw land would pay only base taxes and capital costs, and
hook ups would add consumption fees.
This has drawbacks in that there will be 1 or 2 who say we are not paying. That's one place where the
CRD system has it over the society status. But that can be dealt with.
On our Integrated Water Society board, we have people on systems governed by a society, Improvement
Districts,---- and Mayne has 2 CRD systems, with a 3rd in the wings--- unfortunately. So we have input
from an assortment of purveyors.
Those are my thoughts and I know that many will disagree, but you really only have that option if you
live in the affected area .
You have a real problem and I sincerely empathize. My home island has its own issues and I have to say
we are rarely brave enough to ask another island for an opinion, unless that opinion already agrees with
our stance of the moment. Some of you will know that I am specifically referring to the fire hall issue, and
the outside opinion that we had from Saturna, coincidentally supporting the No committee, who sought
the input. This person did not stand up and face our Islanders while espousing his opinion. We got it via
Canada Post. *
Please take this as it is offered---because I really do care about your beautiful island, nearly as much as
We have to stick together on water issues. They are vital to our property values, if not our lives if we are
full time dedicated islanders.We will be buried beneath the bureacracy dictating their remote Victorian
decisions on what is best for us as we struggle to keep our islands a liveable and an affordable place to
retire, raise families and be blessed with a uniqueness other places only dream of.
Please, get past this dispute and come out the other side still friends and stronger Saturnites
I only pray that all of that is not already lost on Mayne Island.
Respectfully offered for your consideration -----
End of Mary Cooper’s speaking notes for May 7 Groundwater Workshop
* NB: This assertion is disputed by the Saturna Island Fire Protection Society Board