Like in years past, the Cowichan Aquatic Centre will be closed for routine maintenance come late August/early September 2016.
The North Cowichan council decision comes despite outcry from a small segment of the public, concerned about the timing of the annual shut down and the draining of 1.7 million litres of water from the two pools, particularly this year during a time of significant drought.
Council had agreed to have staff look at the issue and consider alternative closure times and the resulting report was delivered Wednesday during the regular council meeting.
In the end council opted to continue on with the regularly scheduled closures as recommended by staff — but with one change.
Should stage 3 water restrictions be in effect, the municipality will refill the pool with ground well water from a backup well on the aquatic centre site.
They will leave the domestic water supply alone.
Coun. Al Siebring wondered if using that well on the pool site would have the same affect on the overall water system as using the domestic water supply.
Mayor Jon Lefebure explained: “The influence of a well surrounds the well and it lessens as the distance increases. Our domestic wells right beside the river have a far greater potential to impact the river than drawing from a well that is as far away as the Aquatic Centre,” he said. “I think you can argue quite safely that withdrawing water from the aquifer near the pool is much safer than drawing it from a domestic supply immediately adjacent to the river.”
When the pool was initially constructed, they had to remove water from the site. In doing so, a well was dug and it was through that source the pool was initially filled. In more recent years the pool has been filled with the domestic water supply after maintenance. Staff’s recommendation is a bit of a short- to medium-term compromise.
Parks and recreation director Ernie Mansueti said he may approach council in the future to reevaluate the situation.
“I think if we continue running into dry, hot summers…I think we don’t shut the pool down during that period of time,” Mansueti said. “It will be a disruption during other periods of the year but when we run into the summer that we’ve had the last few, and we continue to do that, I think the optics when we’re asking our public to do something [to conserve water], I think we’re just going to have to make that decision to move it to a different time of year.”
So while it’s over for now, the issue is far from over.