The Dawson Creek Domestic Watershed serves as the source of drinking water for the City of Dawson Creek, the Village of Pouce Coupe, and thousands of rural residents of the Peace River Regional District. Upwards of 20,000 people rely on the water from the Kiskatinaw River above the intake at the Arras Weir. There are no reasonable, cost-effective alternative sources of water for the forseeable future, therefore we must all do our part to protect our water resource. Unlike most watersheds in British Columbia, which are confined to small mountain valleys, the Dawson Creek Domestic Watershed is relatively large, with an area of 280,000 hectares – roughly the size of BC’s Lower Mainland! Rural communities of Arras, Feller’s Heights, and One Island Lake lie within the watershed.
The watershed supports a range of ecosystem functions that sustain various species of fish, wildlife, waterfowl and aquatic life. Agriculture, forestry, and natural gas development are the dominant industrial sectors operating upstream within the watershed. The challenge for all levels of government is to ensure that water quality and quantity is maintained both for essential ecological purpoes, for upstream resource-users and ultimately for the City as the principal downstream water resource user. The experience in 2010 with drought conditions causing Level 4 water-use restrictions in the Cit, as well as a temporary suspension of upstream industrial water-use withdrawals, is a stark example of just how important it is to conserve water. By keeping track of how we manage, protect and use our precious water supplies, we are also able to help ensure a sustainable level of economic activity for all who depend on the area’s various watershed resources.
Although the City of Dawson Creek has no jurisdiction over land-use activity or water withdrawals within its area of interest in the Kiskatinaw Watershed, various environmental management legislation does apply. Such regulations to protect water resources are enforced through regular monitoring and compliance by provincial and federal agencies.
Most significantly, the British Columbia Drinking Water Protection Act and Drinking Water Protection Regulation went into full force in May 2003. The Act and regulation adopted a multi-barrier approach to water safety. This approach recognizes that drinking water supplies need to be protected in their entirety: from the source water in the watershed or aquifer, through the treatment and distribution systems, all the way to the consumer’s tap. Under this “source-to-tap” approach, protection is achieved through a multi-step process. This process includes gathering information about the system through inspections, assessments and water monitoring and then puts barriers in place to stop contaminants from entering the drinking water supply. Given the City’s interest in protecting its drinking water source, efforts are continuously focused on identifying and managing risks that may threaten the drinking water supply. Source Water Protection throughout the upstream watershed area is the first barrier in the multi-barrier approach to drinking water safety. The City of Dawson Creek Water Treatment Plant is obviously, the critical next most important “barrier” in this process to ensure water quality according to approved provincial and federal drinking water quality standards. Ultimately, the City’s waste-water is fully treated and disposed to ensure the protection of downstream water use and ecosystem functions.
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