An audit of Langley Township’s municipal water system found plenty that is working well, but also laid out 12 recommendations for changes or improvements.
The audit, by the provincial Auditor General for Local Government, was one of three conducted across B.C., with the City of Kelowna the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen also receiving audits.
The dozen recommendations including sections on how best to manage the long-term costs of the water system, improving data collection and monitoring, better tracking of complaints or questions from the public, and developing a whistle blower policy.
It also suggests a number of measures around the long-term health of the local water supply.
In the first section of recommendations, the report says the Township should consider creating sustainable withdrawal targets for groundwater to avoid overuse.
The Township should also have a plan to protect groundwater sources from contamination.
Sharing information and working on managing risks with neighbouring towns and cities should be done where land-use or environmental impacts could affect Township drinking water, the report says.
It also suggests exploring the use of rainwater capture as part of a long-term solution to water needs.
Water has long been an issue for Langley Township residents.
The Township uses a blended water system, with some water coming from Metro Vancouver aquifers north of the Fraser River, as well as 19 Township-operated wells. Some residents water supplies get water mixed together from both systems.
The report looked at the three linked water systems in Langley – the Northwest Langley Water System, which serves Walnut Grove, Willoughby, and Willowbrook, the Southwest Langley Water System, which serves mainly Brookswood-Fernridge and parts of South Langley, and the East Langley Water System which mostly serves Aldergrove and Gloucester Industrial Park.
The mix of groundwater to Metro Vancouver water is different in each system. Northwest Langley uses just 28 per cent groundwater, but Southwest Langley uses 59 per cent groundwater.
Meanwhile, many residents in rural areas have individual wells for their properties. A handful of residents get their water from aging private local systems, with a well and pipe system connected to a number of local homes.
Residents on wells, particularly in South Brookswood and over the Hopington Aquifer in central Langley, have raised concerns about overuse of water and potential contamination from the surface.
Fights over water use have become major political issues. In 2008, Township council considered, but ultimately scrapped, the idea of metering well water. A 3,000 name petition was submitted against the project, and council also declined to create a water management board.
The water management plan under consideration had been put forward after months of public consultation, sparked by fears that the Hopington Aquifer was slowly but steadily declining due to agricultural and residential use.
The Township will likely not be the last community to have an audit of its water management systems.
“We may conduct more audits on drinking water services in the future, as this is a major area of local government activity,” the report said.