“Water defines our city. It’s our history and our future. It’s essential, it’s powerful, it’s precious and it’s something we can’t take for granted.”
With those words from Mayor Mike Ruttan, the city of Port Alberni unveiled its new $4 million UV water treatment facility on Ship Creek Road this December.
But while the Bainbridge water treatment plant—so full of ‘green’ features as to almost make you forget about the water inside—wasn’t nearly the only news story that water inspired this year.
That’s because with water, as a city worker once quipped, you seem to either have too much or too little and either way, people aren’t happy.
Too little came this summer, when the city of Port Alberni imposed water restrictions at the beginning of June—earlier than city engineer Guy Cicon could ever recall happening in his 23-year long career with the city.
Then in mid-July, Cicon did something else he had never done; he imposed stage two water restrictions as levels in the city’s two lake reservoirs continued to fall.
It wouldn’t be until the end of September till the city lifted the restrictions.
The summer drought hit more than just drinking water; the Hupacasath First Nation’s Upnit hydroelectric dam shut down in May and rising water temperatures hurt fish thoughout the Valley.
Then when the rains started, they didn’t stop.
In 2014, floods devastated lower Third Avenue and the Tseshaht reserve.
Logging the city’s privately-owned watershed also made headlines—but seemingly little progress in protecting the ecologically sensitive drinking water supply.