It’s easy to become complacent about our water supply.
A twist of the handle and crystal clear water flows from the tap for our use.
Most give little thought to its source.
It seems the only time we talk about our water is when we gripe about how much of the precious liquid we can spray on our lawns during Vancouver Island’s dry summer months.
But Kathy Haesevotes and her team feel it’s important for people to understand the complex water supply network that gives us a safe source of drinking water.
They’re a part of a Capital Regional District program known as Get to Know Your H2O, an initiative that invites residents to climb aboard a school bus for what is sometimes a bone-jarring tour of where Greater Victoria’s water originates.
There’s no charge for the tour, and folks can reserve their spot by going to the CRD website.
It’s an opportunity to enter what’s ordinarily a restricted area and be introduced to the source of some of the best water on the planet.
“It’s important to bring the public to understand that when they pay their water bill what it’s going for,” Haesevotes said.
The Greater Victoria Water Supply Area is 20,550 hectares of forested land in the Sooke, Goldstream and Leech watersheds and is not open to the public to protect the source of water for the 375,000 people who draw their water from the service.
The policy was at the heart of controversy earlier this year when a proposal to create a bypass traffic route through the watershed was panned by politicians and residents alike. The proposal was ultimately withdrawn.
The primary source of water for the system is provided by the Sooke Water Supply Area. It’s an area of 8,620 hectares of forested terrain in the Sooke Hills, where the reservoir stores 160 million cubic metres of water.
Haesevotes is quick to point out there’s a lot more to the water supply than just a large reservoir of water.
The tour travels through ancient forests and makes a stop at Rithet Creek, the main tributary to the reservoir. The creek adds about 850 million gallons per day to the Sooke Reservoir (although flows can drop during the dry summer months).
At another stop, Haesevotes leads the tour into the deep woods to explain the importance of the surrounding forest land to the water supply.
“The trees provide a natural filter for the water. The root systems hang onto the sediment that would otherwise find its way into the water supply,” she said.
“That’s why it’s so important to manage our surrounding forest.”
One of the tour participants, Stefan Preusser, was enthusiastic about the six-hour tour, saying it was fascinating to see the entire system and how it works.
For another tour participant, Jennifer Sadee, the issue of clean water has a deeper significance.
“With climate change, clean water is going to become a much bigger issue. It’s good to know that we’ve got this great system in place,” Sadee said.
That was a position echoed by Janet Pelley.
“People should take this tour and understand that they don’t have to be carrying around bottled water all the time. This water is as good or better than what you’re buying in those horrible plastic bottles, and so much better for the environment,” she said.
At the final stop of the tour, participants get to see the final disinfecting stages of the water service.
The guides explain how an initial ultraviolet disinfecting process is followed by the addition of small amounts of chlorine and ammonia to complete the process.
Haesevotes said she’s pleased with the response to the tour program and noted during the school year it’s opened up to grade five classes in Greater Victoria.
“It’s very important that we let the younger generation see where their water is coming from. They’ll be the water managers of the future.”