Friday, June 9, 2023
June 9, 2023

Water district consolidation with CRD recommended

North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD) and the Capital Regional District (CRD) have released the long anticipated Salt Spring Island Water Optimization report, which finds that consolidating the water district and local CRD water services into one entity would provide the best governance solution and financial solution for Salt Spring. 

The Government of BC provided $40,000 in grant funding to conduct a joint study in 2019 to review ways to improve coordination between the public water service providers on Salt Spring and identify options to optimize water service delivery.

The report provides four options for improving on-island water governance and administration, and building a collaborative strategy for accessing federal and provincial funding to address Salt Spring’s much-needed water infrastructure needs. Based on the report, the province, CRD, and NSSWD state they are committed to discussing the next steps.

“I look forward to working with NSSWD, other water districts, and the province to explore options to improve water management on Salt Spring, and to access senior government infrastructure funding opportunities,” said CRD electoral area director Gary Holman in a statement, adding, “Any proposals for governance changes emerging from these discussions will ultimately have to be approved by respective water district ratepayers.” 

Salt Spring water service delivery is carried out by multiple agencies, including the CRD, NSSWD, other smaller improvement districts and private utilities, making it difficult to achieve economies of scale and a coordinated approach to water service delivery. North Salt Spring Waterworks provides water to around 50 per cent of the island’s residents. The CRD owns five drinking water systems on the island, each with its own advisory commission.

Consultants Innova Strategy Group believe a Salt Spring Island Water Utility department should be created with a commission providing governance oversight for specific services. The recommended “Option 3” would see the agencies create “an independent CRD Salt Spring Island department through a legally binding mechanism that reports to a single elected Salt Spring Island Commission and that would only operate and manage drinking water systems.”

“The optimization report has gone through a number of drafts,” observed Michael McAllister, who chairs the water district’s board of trustees. “One matter that has not changed throughout the process is Option 3, which the report’s author has recommended as the preferred approach to moving forward. The NSSWD Board has since the first draft supported the exploration of Options 3. We look forward to the next steps.”

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