When last year’s drought hit Vancouver Island, Nick Leslie was run ragged.
The owner of South Island Water — he bought the company with his dad in June of this year — was working 18 hour days delivering water to people in communities across the Island. Leslie estimates he had between 3,000 to 4,000 people getting deliveries at the peak of the drought.
“I do come from an oilfield background, so I’m used to a 24- hour on-call situation,” he said. “I’ve spent 16 years being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and I thought this was going to be a break – I mean, it’d be a cakewalk, 24 trucks to three, I can run three trucks in my sleep – but it is so much more demanding because you’re dealing with 30 to 45 customers a day.”
Leslie added two trucks to meet demand during the drought and says without them, he doesn’t know if he’d be able to keep up.
Mike Hicks, the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director, says with development expanding and the lack of information about the number of wells connected to aquifers, trucked in water could become increasingly relied on.
“What’s the contingency if those businesses go under?” he asked.
Leslie says his company isn’t thinking of shutting down; it’s looking to expand.
The company should have two more trucks within the year, and Leslie says he hopes to have 15 within five years.
He says because of its experience working in the oilfields, South Island Water is well-positioned to meet growing demand in the future.
“The average person, to buy a brand new water truck right now, often will cost at least $250,000, with a 12 to 18-month wait,” he said. “If you walked into a builder tomorrow with $300,000, they might get your truck in a year. But because of our work in the oilfields, a building company told us we’d be first on the list to get new trucks when they’re needed.”
Leslie says trucked in water has become an essential service, and that makes the work rewarding.
He was born and raised in Sooke but moved with his dad, Doug, to Alberta to start a trucking company during the oil boom and make money. He’s selling off that company and moving back to Sooke to run South Island Water full time.
“I spent 16 years in the oilpatch where I was called an idiot to my face daily,” he said. “The amount of appreciation from the customers is so foreign to me. It’s super rewarding. I’m not a doctor. I don’t see what that’s like to be in a rewarding job like that. But something like this is pretty cool.”
One story in particular highlights the importance of his work.
“There’s a lady called in the water. I was so tired. I wanted to tell her no. I went there at almost 10 p.m.,” he said. “And when she came out to pay me, she was eight months pregnant. And I just thought to myself, ‘Thank God, thank God,’ I didn’t just give up and say no.”