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  • Gayle Baker

Will 2024 Bring a Relaxation of the Nine-Year NSSWD Moratorium on New Water Hookups?

Updated: Jan 9

December 15

December 15

Ten joined this ASK Salt Spring conversation with North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD) Chief Administrative Officer, Mark Boysen, and Board Chair, Brian Pyper. The first time representatives of this important water district have joined us as our special guests, questions flew, creating a rich conversation. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, Mark and Brian began by telling us a bit about themselves. 


Brian is an environmental statistician bringing his 25 years of analytical experience to NSSWD’s important decisions. Planning to run for another term in the upcoming Trustee election before its AGM on Thursday, May 2, 2024, he hopes to continue his commitment to making decisions based on science as well as supporting both staff and ratepayers.


Mark began managing NSSWD in March 2023 and is delighted to be here! Living on Salt Spring, he had been commuting to the Cowichan Valley Regional District where he was General Manager of Operations, overseeing 37 sewer and water utilities, solid waste and recycling, and the parks department. Before that, he was the Chief Administrative Officer of Ucluelet for four years. He started in local government in 2008 leading sustainability and climate change programs for the District of Saanich and the City of Victoria.


Mark and Brian spoke briefly about two recent surveys:

  1. One survey, initiated by NSSWD Trustees and developed by Bruce Cameron of Salt Spring Insights, will poll current and past Salt Spring water district commissioners. One question that caught some attention concerned opinions about merging with CRD. Results from this survey are expected to be released by NSSWD in early 2024 (Many Salt Spring Insight https://saltspringinsights.com/ surveys are open to all. Sign up, Salt Spring and add your voice! )

  2. The second NSSWD survey focused on customer service and has been done in previous years as well. Although this survey just closed, Mark told us that initial results are generally very positive in terms of customer service with some need for more long term planning expressed.

Expect NSSWD to release results of both of these surveys in early 2024


The other news expected this spring will be details about the Maxwell Lake Treatment Plant, slated to be complete by the end of 2025, and an analysis of the NSSWD moratorium policy.


Maxwell Lake Treatment Plant: As we know, by remaining an Improvement District rather than merging with CRD, NSSWD is ineligible for federal and provincial infrastructure grants to help fund this major capital expense. Salt Spring’s two very large Improvement Districts have lobbied hard for a change in this limiting provincial policy, but the province has been adamant: Seeing Improvement Districts as an outdated governance model, the province continues to pressure them to merge into a local government. Having recently decided not to merge with CRD due to concerns about autonomy, the promised infrastructure grant opportunity that could have helped fund this Maxwell Treatment Plant was lost.


But, Mark is working hard to get the province to address another concern: Due to a long-ago law, Fire (and Street Lighting) Improvement Districts qualify for preferential provincial long-term loans; water improvement districts do not. The NSSWD estimates that, over the years of repayment, an estimated $4 million could be saved as a result of its access to these preferential loans. Facing a huge infrastructure project and long-term debt, NSSWD is working hard, with MLA Adam Olsen’s support, to convince the province to re-examine this loan restriction.


While we did not get into many of the details of this Mount Maxwell Water Treatment Plant, you may want to learn more: https://northsaltspringwaterworks.ca/maxwell-daf-plant/maxwell-project-faq/). We did learn that most of Ganges (to Country Grocer) is on the Mount Maxwell system; the rest on the St. Mary system.


Mark is very enthusiastic about a Mount Maxwell watershed project led by Dr. Ruth Waldick of Transition Salt Spring (TSS), the CARL Project: (https://transitionsaltspring.com/mt-maxwell/). Partnering with TSS as well as contributing $50,000 a year, NSSWD is getting invaluable knowledge about enhancing our water quality through forest management, fire prevention, and watershed restoration. As a result of this information, it is hoped that Ripon Creek, which often has too much sediment, can be diverted to Lake Maxwell at higher rates from November through March, providing welcome additional water.


The other big news this spring from NSSWD will be an in-depth review and assessment of its nine-year moratorium on new water hookups. Trustees expect to receive (initially in camera) two moratorium-related studies in early 2024 meetings. The first will be a Water Masterplan to assess future growth predictions and water infrastructure needs. The second will analyze a number of supply studies, offering multiple water use scenarios and their impact on continuing - or relaxing - the long-lasting NSSWD moratorium.


***Initially, Trustees will analyze these reports in camera. With strong scientific and analytical backgrounds, it is expected that they will spend the first few months reviewing the results and framing them within a decision-making context. But, by spring, Trustees will publicly release their conclusions about the state of the moratorium. While to some, waiting until April seems a long time, Brian reminded us that a few months more - after nine years - is needed to make sure that the information released is on target. We were reminded that, in the context of future water demand, as many as 260 (not 400) undeveloped connections (including at least 120 for the proposed Channel Ridge Onni https://www.saltine.ca/stories/history-of-channel-ridge development) have already been committed as they were paid for before the moratorium began.


An eagerly awaited conversation, many Salt Springers are staying tuned for NSSWD moratorium decisions this spring.


Mark was asked if addressing leaks could render the moratorium unnecessary. He replied that NSSWD has an asset management system in place, and in the last year, the District has bolstered its leak-detection and repair program. We were reminded that identifying and fixing deeply buried leaking pipes is a very expensive job (especially in long sections like Sunset Road where pipes are old), but remains a high priority for NSSWD.


What about water catchment? Yes: NSSWD is working with Transition Salt Spring to review rebate/loan program options for customers who install catchment systems.


***What about incentives to use less water? Yes: NSSWD has just imposed a tiered summer rate system in place in which the highest users are charged far more than low or moderate users. While some of the biggest 100 users simply don’t seem to care, apparently happy to pay over $2,000 for two months of water in the summer for lush lawns, it is hoped that this tiered system (in combination with water restrictions and education) will significantly reduce summer water consumption for most users.


***What about using grey water? This would be a CRD building code question, but it is clearly possible, but expensive, as Croftonbrook uses grey water to flush toilets. As NSSWD only provides potable water, the conversation veered to needs for less treated water. We know that there are many big users - the Fire Department; our roads contractor, Emcon; CRD’s PARC; and the School District, to name a few - that have needs for non-potable water during our summer months. Wouldn’t it be nice if the school district’s playing fields could be used all summer? How about using less treated water to keep our parks green all summer? Did you know that Emcon needs water to sweep our streets - as well as other maintenance tasks? (NSSWD no longer provides water to Emcon, our roads maintenance contractor for sweeping the streets or dust control.)


The Ganges Water Treatment Plant releases thousands of gallons of secondary treated and disinfected water into Ganges Harbour through a 4.8-kilometre outfall at a depth of about 16 metres below sea level. What if this non potable water could be used? As we look at our water usage and the continuation of NSSWD’s long-lasting water moratorium, isn’t it time for this conversation?


As 1:00 was upon us, we concluded our fascinating conversation with a participant’s acknowledgement of NSSWD. While he did not always get the answer he wanted, he lauded Brian, Mark, and all the staff for providing a welcoming, helpful, and informative environment to all who need information or guidance. Mark responded by saying the NSSWD is working hard to build effective partnerships. Leading with productive talks with the Fire District, including a signed Memorandum of Understanding, Mark is beginning to develop a similar relationship with Islands Trust. Both Brian and Mark are also watching the Local Community Commission with interest, hopeful of a productive relationship with this new CRD governing body.


We left applauding Mark and Brian, respecting their measured approach to very big NSSWD challenges, reliance upon the science to make their decisions, success partnering with other organizations, and interest in more clearly communicating and listening to Salt Springers. (Thank-you, Mark and Brian!)


Please join us this Friday, January 5,11-1, in the SIMS (the former Middle School) classroom next to the Boardroom to welcome MLA Adam Olsen.


What would you like to ask him?

  • Can you tell us what is happening with the Police Review initiative?

  • What is being done to help our insecurely-housed?

  • What proposed legislation do you strongly support?

  • What bills concern you?

  • What would you like to accomplish in 2024?

  • -And?

Please join us this Friday to welcome Adam!


Did you know that ASK Salt Spring now has an Event Organizer? Grant Fredrickson has stepped up to identify special guests and coordinate their visits. . . Wahoo!


Who else would like to help? Maybe you would like to take charge of weekly media? Do you see yourself facilitating? How about writing reports? Or. . . ?


Please join us making ASK Salt Spring ever better!


Big News:

ASK Salt Spring now has ongoing funding! A heartfelt THANK-YOU to the Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA) and its Executive Director, Peter Allen !!!


***New fundraising option***

You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230.


Any questions, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com


Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings,

monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings? Asksaltspring.com.

Want to listen to interviews of our special guests?ASK Salt Spring Answered


Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We love your receipts! Remember: #15


Our Partners. . . .

Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA), Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards and Island Savings' Simple Generosity grant.

A heartfelt Thank-You!







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