British Columbia

Salt Spring Island prepares for future with less rain

A lack of spring rainfall has officials on Salt Spring Island preparing to fight drought conditions.

The Southern Gulf Island relies on rainfall to fill lakes for drinking water supply

St. Mary Lake is one of Salt Spring Island's main water sources. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

After a lack of spring rainfall on Salt Spring Island, officials are preparing to fight drought conditions. Last year, the water supply was at a critical level.

The Gulf Island relies largely on rainfall collected in lakes for its drinking water. Healthy rains during the winter helped to replenish the supply, but there hasn't been much rain this spring.

"Last year we were in crisis mode managing it through the summer. Now we are trying to take some steps a bit earlier," said Marshall Heinekey, chair of the North Salt Spring Water Works District.

Salt Spring draws most of its water from two lakes. The supply of water is low in the summer just as the population explodes with tourists.

George Grams chairs the Salt Spring Island Watersheld Protection Agency and is vice-chair for the Islands Trust Council. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

The water supply hit a critical level last summer and unprecedented restrictions were brought in to conserve what remained.

More droughts predicted

Longer periods of drought are expected in the years ahead so officials are trying to come up with a plan to collect and conserve more water.

Several agencies on Salt Spring are currently working together to assess the water supply. They hope to come up with a plan to better capture, store and distribute the rain that falls throughout the year.

George Grams, chair of the Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Agency, sees the situation as a seasonal problem that can be dealt with through better planning.

Water conservation restrictions are currently at level two. Salt Spring reached level four for the first time ever last summer. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

"Some of the other southern Gulf Islands have legislation in place that demand property owners actually harvest rain water and store, and maybe we need to do that on Salt Spring too," he said.

In the meantime, there's a campaign aimed at educating tourists about water shortages on the island to save every drop possible through the summer months.

"There's a lot of people travelling, they don't read our newspaper," Heinekey said. "We have little cards on the restaurant tables telling people about water issues."

There is also hope that June, a month that traditionally has been wet, will help fill the lakes on Salt Spring before the summer heat sets in.