Advocates are concerned that development around Aquifer 606 could see the key water source for hundreds of western communities residents drained and polluted.
But funding problems are making it hard for the local management board to install proper observation equipment.
Aquifer 606 lies under Metchosin, large stretches of the area around Sooke as well as parts of Colwood and Langford and provides water to people connected to wells.
Many of the houses in the area are on wells, with piped municipal water not an option in some areas.
Members of a newly formed group, called Otter Point 606 Water Group, are worried that booming development in the surrounding area could pollute and drain the important water source.
“Anybody drawing from the aquifer is going to make a difference,” said Lynn Moss, one of the organizers of the group. “Sometimes people that move out here from town aren’t entirely water-wise.”
Mike Hicks, the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director, said development shouldn’t be a problem because the number of houses set to be built over the next few years falls within the different municipality’s official community plans.
What does concern him is the lack of information about the condition of the aquifer.
Hicks wants to get this information from a test well and if that doesn’t work, then a study.
He went to the province to ask for money for a test well, to monitor water levels in the aquifer, but was rejected.
A Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations spokesperson said in an email that monitoring for the Aquifer 606 area is done at a well near Phillips Road, put in place in 2018.
“While we have limited ability to add more wells to the West Coast Provincial Groundwater Observation Well Network at present, we are working on ways to increase capacity,” the spokesperson added.
The ministry noted the cost of a new test well would likely be around $40,000 and said funding for these kinds of projects is spread around the province and distributed based on planning cycles.
Hicks said he committed to conducting a study to count the number of wells connected to the aquifer and how deep they go, an important step in assessing the amount of water being used. The last study was done in 2004, when there were 639 wells correlated to the aquifer – considered a low density at the time. But the risk of contamination was considered high and that risk is only going to increase as development does and the number of wells dug rises, says Chris Moss, another organizer with Otter Point 606 Water Group.
“Most of them go far below sea level because they all throw deep wells or most of them are deep wells between 400 and 650 feet, so they are at danger – not only of running out of their freshwater if somebody above them drills a well, they can also be contaminated by seawater,” he said.
Hicks said Juan de Fuca is currently looking to hire people to conduct the survey but doesn’t have a timeline for when the work will be done.
He added in the meantime, the province needs to make the area more of a priority to ensure the aquifer can be properly protected.
“We’re recognizing the future problems with the aquifers and we’re trying to find out really what it’s all about,” he said. “I can tell already, it’s going to be a long process when I can’t even get a test well.”