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2018 Elections – Candidates Perspectives on Rainwater for Housing

    Editorial & Opinions, Election Candidates    October 19, 2018

In the lead up to Election Day on October 20th, 2018, the Community Alliance will post answers from candidates to crucial questions. Today, we focus on rainwater for housing.

Question: How would you address and support the creation of a process to ensure that safe potable rainwater systems are installed on Salt Spring (e.g., Trust zoning and application regulations)?

Sabrina Ali (candidate for Islands Trustee):

I would work with SWIPPA and I would investigate the possibility of off-season water collection.
I would consult with all parties in the area, as well as the Provincial and Federal Government to explore funding opportunities and further a comprehensive water management strategy.

I would also look at the good ideas within the citizens report to ensure that we all have access to safe drinking water year round.

Peter Grove (candidate for Islands Trustee):

Rainwater systems are already allowed for single family residences. Their installation is supervised by the CRD’s building department. There are many operating successfully across the island. The challenge comes with multi residential developments, primarily from Island Health (VIHA), which is what has got in the way of a number of affordable housing projects including the CRDs Drake road, Dragonfly and Croftonbrook. Islands Health considers rainwater to be more difficult to monitor and control than groundwater, which makes no sense to me. Pressure is being brought to bear on the Ministry to change this. I will certainly do all I can to increase that pressure by ensuring the matter remains high on Trust Council’s agenda and advocating with our MLA who, I believe, is fully supportive.

Gary Holman (candidate for CRD Director):

For single family dwellings, there already is a process in place to ensure that safe, potable rainwater systems can be installed. However, there are concerns that these rules are unnecessarily cumbersome and costly. I understand that CRD Building Inspection staff have already indicated, as a result of advocacy by water and equipment providers, that existing rules and policies regarding earthquake proofing of water storage tanks will be rationalized to avoid the costly requirement for an engineer’s approval in certain circumstances.

I believe additional changes by the CRD and Island Health (which regulates potable water system standards) are possible to further reduce costs and regulatory burdens governing existing rainwater catchment regulations. There is an even more significant problem regarding rainwater catchment systems for drinking water in multi-family projects. In fact, it is my understanding that Island Health provides no standards for such systems, all but precluding their use for larger affordable housing projects. My understanding is that other jurisdictions do have rules and standards in place to allow such systems, and that Island Health is considering them now. I will advocate for adoption of such standards.

I believe the best way to approach these issues, as with many others that involve various authorities, is to establish an inter-agency working group to thoroughly discuss problems with the current regulatory regime, changes that may already be underway to address these problems, and possible new approaches. As MLA, I convened such meetings on SSI when it became clear that affordable housing projects were being held up by the NSSWD water moratorium.

Howard Holzapfel (candidate for Islands Trustee):

Rainwater collection through Education and workshops, I support anything that will make our island more stainable .

Laura Patrick (candidate for Islands Trustee):

I understand the fragility of our island’s freshwater supplies and the increasing stress of a warming climate. We must develop a culture of water conservation within the Trust Area. We should consider evolving the Salt Spring Water Protection Alliance (SSWPA) to a Trust Area-wide conservation authority.

I will improve coordination and collaboration with the other governments and agencies, such as CRD and Island Health, that are creating barriers to installing rainwater collection systems.

I will act to remove barriers that are in the Land Use Bylaws for using rainwater catchment for supplying secondary suites, cottages, multi-family housing, and other accessory buildings.

I will advocate for developing an incentive program to help existing homeowners upgrade their homes with water conservation features such as rainwater collection systems.

I will collaborate with other island organizations to develop rainwater collection system requirements, guidance materials, and education programs.

Instead of fearing the loss of our water supplies, Salt Spring can be a model community that attracts attention for its conservation culture, innovative green initiatives and technologies. On October 13, you too can join SSIWPA’s tour of island homes that feature different solutions and innovations in rainwater harvesting and use.

Robin Williams (candidate for CRD Director):

For rainwater there is a lot of misinformation. First you can install a catchment tank up to 2500 imperial gallons with just an engineering sign off and the water approval from a water quality specialist. The CRD needs to promote this more including at their own facilities. We also need more influence and co-operation from Island Health (VIHA) which is why I want a seat on the board. The problems seem to be more with simple education and execution than any major road blocks or technical problems.

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