What do you do when the well runs dry? – The Future for Pender Island

What do you do when the well runs dry?
It’s a pretty good question. It is a question that every property owner on Pender will be asking if the Pender Island Islands Trust trustees push through approval for Short Term Vacation Rentals.

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Currently STVR’s are not allowed on Pender, our trustees are entertaining heavily to change that and make STVR’s legal.

STVR’s (Short Term Vacation Rentals) are again an issue on the island. An issue driven by greed and the manipulation of a few islanders that “aren’t the smartest”. An issue that is not taking into account common sense.

(Link to Islands Trust STVR report)

So let’s address the lack of common sense involved in the push to permit STVR’s. STVR’s will increase the population of the island during the drought filled summer months, which means more water usage. STVR’s will also attract people from large cities where water seems endless. These will not be frugal water users, this is a demographic used to long showers and flushing the toilet each time they go. These are people “on vacation”, people who feel entitled to use all the water they wish because they’ve paid to use the rental house and they are going to enjoy themselves. Our trustees and their push to allow STVR’S, is a situation where the trustees are intentionally wanting to put further strain on an already inadequate water supply. If the trustees are allowed to push through the allowance of STVR’s, they are literally taking water out of the mouths of property owners on Pender Island.

The Gulf Islands are notorious for their lack of rain in summer. We all face water restrictions. Water is not plentiful. In May 2015 we had 1.6mm of rainfall while in June 2015 we had 5.0mm. A whopping 6.6mm of rain for two full months. This is the rainfall that fills our aquifers providing us with drinking water, and water for washing and bathing. Water is a necessity to life.

Respectful islanders recognize that this vital resource, water, is in short supply. We don’t water gardens or lawns or wash our cars, we bathe our children in the tub together, we have super fast showers (and not every day), and of course to do with the toilet “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down”. Frugality is of the utmost importance with regards to water on the Gulf Islands (British Columbia, Canada) because quite simply there isn’t enough. The climate does not provide enough.

Our neighbourhood on Pender, Trincomali, has guidelines for the quantity of water a household should use. For a four person household they encourage a family of four to restrict their usage to 110 to 130 gallons per day. This is a neighbourhood that has two massive water storage tanks that can be filled in rainier months, yet still requires frugal use. Our neighbourhood also has a “wall of shame”, a posting of households that are extreme users of water and the amount they use. This “wall of shame” is a gentle nudge to encourage home owners to use less water. When dealing with home owners you at least have a way of encouraging less water use, you can hope some sense of social responsibility to your community will come into play, and a little public shaming also never hurt. With the users of STVR’s there is no way to limit water use, no way to encourage frugality with a substance so limited and so precious. It is no secret that those on vacation follow the concept of “use and abuse”, one only has to spend 30 seconds on Facebook or Instagram to see this mentality at play. If our trustees irresponsibly move forward with approving STVR’s, they are giving full permission for our minute water supply to be used and abused by tourists who feel no responsibility towards the island’s well being.

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Water problems for Pender Island.

Our concern for our water supply is not an imaginary situation. A close by island, Gabriola, is currently dealing with water issues. An article discussing the situation can be read by clicking HERE. On Gabriola wells are dry. Residents are trucking in water for a fee of $850 for 14,000 litres (we had a quote for Pender for $825 for 13,000 litres). 14,000 litres of water sounds like a lot, but based on our neighbourhood recommendation of 130 gallons a day for a family of four, this $850 shipment will only last 28.45 days. Imagine paying $29.88 per day for basic water usage; over the course of a year, if the well stays dry, the water bill would be $10,9062.20. This is what residents on Gabriola are currently facing.

Ironically the move to push through STVR’s on Pender Island is being favorably entertained by our own Islands Trust trustees, Islands Trust being a body set up to protect the islands. Yes, you read that right, “protect the islands”. But it gets better. In the article regarding the dire water situation on Gabriola, the author of the article looks to other Islands Trust officials for insight. Peter Luckham, elected chair of the Islands Trust is quoted as saying in the July 21st article in The Province “It’s pretty serious.” with regards to the lack of moisture. He also brings attention to another essential need for water, the availability of water needed to fight fires, water that is used to keep property safe and save lives. If there is no water, no fires can be fought, especially at inland locations where hydrants are used. In the same article Melanie Mamoser, an elected trustee on Gabriola is quoted as saying “Water stress is always a concern”.

The article in The Province also states “Tourists have again swelled the population at a time when systems are least able to bear the extra strain.” Low or no water, added population; a disastrous mix.

Interestingly, according to the report put together by Islands Trust staff regarding STVR’s for Pender they cite: ” Some islands such as Gabriola and Galiano use specific OCP guidelines to regulate STVR’s through Temporary Use Permits (TUP).” It is using an island, Gabriola, that has run out of water as an example of success. An island that has too many people come to an island with too little water. How can we trust an organization that puts together a report where the example they use as a “success” is actually playing out as an utter disaster. Gabriola is running out of water, this is what Islands Trust wants (and recommends in their very own report) for Pender. It is proven in what is playing out on Gabriola that the Gulf Islands cannot handle an elevated strain on water which added tourism causes.

Peter Luckham (Islands Trust Chair) also stated, in reference to British Columbia upgrading their drought rating to level 4 (the highest) on July 15th, that “It says there is insufficient water to meet the current social and economic needs”, and “You can’t underestimate what that means”.

How can the chair of the Islands Trust recognize there is a problem with water availability, yet our own Pender Island Islands Trust Trustees are entertaining a situation that will put even more strain on our water supply?

Something is wrong.

Why are our Islands Trust Trustees elected on North Pender Island entertaining approving a situation that will harm our island when the Islands Trust was set up to protect the islands?

Something is very, very wrong.

(Special thanks to The Province and Kent Spencer for the article “Trucks hauling in water to beat drought”)







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