Who Will Protect Our Water? A Community Forum

BCS is pleased to announce that we are holding a community forum on Thursday, April 21st on the subject of water security.  There will be speakers that will inform us on the new BC Water Sustainability Act, healthy water systems, the hydrology of a watershed, and the responsibility of water protection.  A discussion including a Q&A will follow.  Please join us to learn more about water security in our community.

Water Sustainability in Blewett

Blewett residents were shocked this summer to discover that an unmarked building on a quiet neighbourhood road was in fact the site of a water bottling plant.  Albertan owned Okinshaw Water Company Ltd. on Shasheen Rd has been extracting groundwater and selling it to international
markets for private profit.  Water from the Blewett aquifer sells under the name Riva and Canadian Ice. Soon, under BC's new Water Sustainability Act (WSA) legislation, Okinshaw will be able to apply for a license.  Before any licenses are granted, the Blewett Conservation Society wants guarantees that domestic water supplies for over 100 households will be protected.

Blewett Conservation Society (BCS) President, John Vanden Heuvel says,

“not only are we concerned about the impact of this extraction on
Blewett domestic users and the ecosystem but also on the way this
company operates.”

Okinshaw has claimed that this Aquifer has an “endless supply of water” and has inaccurately advertised their product as being sourced from a "37km catchment area... completely wooded and protected from industry, commercial or residential development as well as any potential surface contamination."

In contrast, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) recognizes that groundwater volume is directly related to surface water and rainfall levels and that an aquifer is a finite resource. The MOE states that

“aquifer [511] is
fractured bedrock, approximately 11 km2 in size, with low productivity,
and generally the sole water source for domestic use in the area.”

Maps of the domestic wells suggest the aquifer extends from 49 Creek across the hillside to Eagle Creek near Bedford Road.

Okinshaw has estimated weekly sales totaling 19,000 bottles per week with a capacity to bottle 250 bottles per minute. With new plans to ramp up exports of Blewett water to Asian Pacific Markets (it’s already for sale on Amazon and distributed internationally through Clearly Canadian)
Okinshaw has declared that it wants to be the "leading premium bottled water company in the world."

This news comes at a time when British Columbia's water resources are at a historic low. During last summer's drought, for the first time in its history, the City of Nelson was forced to implement Level Four Water Restrictions to preserve water for drinking and fire protection in 2015. This past summer two established domestic wells that source water from the Blewett aquifer in question ran dry.

Blewett residents are very concerned.  BCS Director K.L. Kivi notes that

“increased extraction, coupled with climate change, could result in
insufficient water for domestic use in Blewett and for the area’s
ecosystems. And surprisingly, there is no clear protection against such
extraction in the new Water Sustainability Act that is coming into
effect this year.”

The BCS has launched a petition addressed to BC Legislature, requesting that the government take action to project domestic water supplies from private enterprises and carry out a Water Sustainability Plan for the community in accordance with the new Water Act.  Such a Plan would also take in the other current and projected industrial uses of Aquifer 511, such as mining, a gravel pit, etc.  A letter from Minister Steve Thomson's office stated that “An aquifer characterization study is not currently planned for Aquifer #511.”

“For the province to let Okinshaw extract more water for export purposes
or to grant them a license to do so without adequate information, would
be unethical,”
— John Vanden Heuvel

concluded John Vanden Heuvel.   The BCS will continue to seek funds to do an independent, comprehensive groundwater study and plans to hold a public meeting about the issue in early spring.  For more information the public can visit the Blewett Conservation Society
Facebook page.


ATCO Forestry Plan

ATCO Wood Products are proposing to develop cut blocks in the Granite and Glade Creek areas just west of Blewett. They plan to access the blocks from the Rover Creek Forest Service Road. BCS is opposed to the proposed development for the following reasons:

1. A portion of Glade Creek has been proven unstable due partially to a flume that was constructed in and along the channel back in the 1950s or so.
2. An assessment is needed to determine the current stability in the whole of Glade Creek, there are water users located in the community of Glade that depend on that creek for drinking water and irrigation.
3. The Rover Creek area is already impacted by multiple activities (dumping, motorized recreation, logging, mining exploration, etc.) which continues to compromise refuge in the area for wildlife.

The Blewett Watershed Committee has written a letter to ATCO to assert our opposition to the cut block development. We will keep you informed on this important issue...

Update on Dirt Bike Recreation Area Proposal in Rover Creek Watershed

A year ago, local residents heard about a proposal by a West Kootenay Dirt Bike Club to put a Off Road Vehicle Recreation Area in the Rover Creek watershed of Blewett. The reaction to the proposal by residents of Blewett, South Slocan and Shoreacres was so great that Justin Dexter of the Ministry of Forests Lands and Resources called a public meeting. Over 30 people attended and concerns as diverse as noise, wildlife, forest fires and water protection were voiced. As a result of that meeting, a committee to examine the proposal and proceed with recreational planning for the area was struck, made up of members representing community organizations including the BCS.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) about how the Dirt Bike Area will be managed is now in the works. Forest fire hazard continues to be a primary concern. Noise continues to be a concern especially for residents of Shoreacres and South Slocan, less for Blewett. Also of deep concern is disturbance of wildlife, especially during the spring mating/nesting/calving season. And, of course, impacts on water.
There is still time to get involved or give your input to this process if you have any concerns. E-mail BCS at blewettcs@shaw.ca for more information.

Morning Mountain to be made into one of regional district’s newest parks

 Courtesy of The Nelson Daily

Courtesy of The Nelson Daily

(From The Nelson Daily)

The sun is set to rise on Morning Mountain as one of the region’s favourite recreation destinations will become one of the regional district’s newest parks.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) board of directors supported a move at its January meeting to include Morning Mountain as a regional park ...read the article


Blewett Skating Rink Update

The Blewett Outdoor Skating Facility project at Morning Mountain has sadly been postponed to next year. The RDCK discovered that the water flow coming from the well up there was not sufficient to flood the rink nor provide a washing station for bikes in the summer. They will need to put in a pump/cistern system, and time limited them from starting this add-on project.

The funds are still in reserve though, and we will be starting the project in the spring. If you would like to be involved, please email the BCS at blewettcs@shaw.ca.