Skidegate water shortage unprecedented

  • Aug. 18, 2015 11:00 a.m.

By Stacey MarpleHaida Gwaii ObserverAs of July 28 the Village of Skidegate water levers were continuing to fall. Measurements Slarkedus Lake, from which the village receives all its potable water, were 40.5 inches below the safe level. The Band Council is now enforcing mandatory Level-4 water restrictions. This means all uses are prohibited except for drinking and household uses. There is no enforcement program for the water conservation, as it is an new process for the band.  Watering of lawns and gardens along with washing cars and boats are all prohibited. The use of sprinklers, hoses and pressure washers and the filling pools are also among the prohibited uses for water. Skidegate depends entirely on surface water of Slarkedus lake, rather than well water as with other communities on Haida Gwaii. The rain that has preceded the fire warning have not nearly been enough to fill the aquifer. All of the precipitation on Haida Gwaii has been soaked up by the forest and the moss. Having a mild winter with low rainfall has also contributed to significantly low lake levels. This is the first time Skidegate has seen any water restrictions, let alone a Level 4, which is the highest level in water restrictions. The Skidegate Band Council held a meeting July 23, to which over 100 residents attended. “People have come up with brilliant water conservation methods,” Babs Stevens Skidegate Band CAO, said.”This is a way for the public to make a decision along with us.” The Villages of Port Clements and Queen Charlotte have extended an invitation to help Skidegate with their water supply. “We are thankful to Port Clements and Queen Charlotte for their offer, we haven’t hit the state where it’s needed, but it is nice to know it’s there,” Ms. Stevens said. There are many teams working on solutions for Skidegate and the lack of water. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) have been working closely with the band council to assist in the efforts. The Band did not have any backup plans for this situation as they had never faced a water shortage. “Water conservation is part of our energy efficiency plans for Skidegate,” Trent Moraes, with the Skidegate housing department said. “We already were working on it, [but] we were rushed into this now with the drought.”The band council is asking residents to report any household leaks and running toilets so they can assist in repairing the issues as quickly as possible. “We are creating options for our band and our people so this will not happen again,” Ms. Stevens said.According to Queen Charlotte Village CAO Lori Wiedeman, the water levels at Stanley Lake Weir have risen significantly to within safe levels since the drought. Masset and Port Clements water levels continue to hold.

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