February 2017 newsletter


Water sustainability: Our goal for 2017! Every upgrade or baby step towards self sufficiency and responsible usage, secures current and future water resources for our islands. The bonus is enjoying our lifestyle and maintaining property values.

One thing is fact. We all draw from the same 'mother well', replenished solely from an erratic heavenly supply, with a minimum of a two year replenishment period. Today's rainfall is not an instant cure.

Well recovery is an iffy business. If drawn down, a well may not recover, or show a new metals and minerals makeup, may be salt infused, lost forever. Water systems or private wells, fears are the same. As the Water Sustainability Act espouses, we don't own the water. On our islands, water actually is the hostage taker!

Private well owners are masters of their own fate?

First precaution is to be intimate with your well. Keep records including date of well drilling, depth. output, annual metals and minerals, and water quality tests. Stagger tests to cover post drought and post rainy seasons.

Do not 'over-shock' treat your well. If it tests say good, be happy. Unnecessary shocking will scour well casings, depositing rust accumulants in the bottom of your well. Rust has it own bacteria issues. Make sure that rainwater run off does not enter the area of the wellhead possibly causing e-coli issues. Read instructions on how to install a well. See if your well complies.

For conservation, have water restricting devices in service. Consider lowering your water pressure, with only sufficient output to run dishwashers and washing machines. Tighten up on guest usage with time limits.

The biggest asset is to install rainwater collection tanks. If piping for toilet use, use purple pipes for clear identification of non - potable water source. Advice: buy big, in the 2000 gal. range, minimum one, and growing. Plan location carefully. Estimates are about $1.00 per gallon. When using within the house, install a backflow preventer to prevent cross contamination of potable water. If you are buying a pump, be sure it has a pump protector.

Many islanders had serious water issues last summer, yet other areas were okay. Drought years seem to be consecutive, with rainfall patterns changing taking a feast or famine approach, causing too much runoff, not enough retention.

It is really in our hands how we manage our resolve to make water and island life sustainable.

While difficult, we must firm up our resolve to cut back to basic usage , create an action plan that can be understood by everyone in your home, why, and all held accountable. This is the hardest of all.

Getting people to understand is very difficult. We must all become educators for those who do not get the picture, can't be bothered, letting it be everyone else's problem. What they waste comes out of your pocket, waterwise and through your tax dollars, using very expensive water to clean cars, driveways,water gardens and lawns or powerwashing.

More than one glacier is about to slide into the ocean. When that happens we are going to see more aquifers succumbing to ocean water sourcing. Farewell to once reliable shoreline wells.

Islanders must claim ownership of their water future. Giving up is not an option.

Mary Cooper, Past President, for the Board MIIWSS

November 2016 newsletter


Power washing and understanding water system bylaws are first priority this month.

All water systems have bylaws limiting the use of water drawn from their system wells for use outside of the home. These bylaws vary from absolutely no water from the system to be used outside of the home for any purpose , year round, to limited use defined by date, which usually reflects what we call our 'rainy season'.

It is up to the property owner to know these limitations and comply, not only for common sense reasons, but because they may be violating legal Ministry registered bylaws that will be enforced and may be subject to penalties as decided by a duly elected water board.

Water system information is at your fingertips via our website miiwss.com. Select Pages, then Water Systems. You will find system information on all MIIWSS member water districts on Mayne and on the southern Gulf Islands, including taxes, area serviced within Letters Patent boundaries, Board members, bylaws, contact info, etc.

If the rules sound officious, they aren't really if you look at the logic of rainwater collection vs well water for outside of home use.

We have free collectable rainfall for about 6 months of the year vs. sole supply, sourced from drilled wells of finite life span and aquifer unknowns, (quantity and quality), being treated to comply with federal and provincial health regulations, maintained via a complex and maintenance heavy delivery system, a paid Small Water Systems certified operator, and maintenance staff as required. For those systems requiring outside financing for upgrades and repair projects, you are also paying borrowing costs.

This is what your water taxes and tolls are paying for, the very water which your neighbour may be spraying all over his porch, house, car and gardens. It is a cost shared by every homeowner on that system! When, if with a minimum of effort, the power washing neighbour could be doing what he/she pleases by looking upward and thinking forward, not wasting valuable tax dollars, and/or draining a well with possible questionable ability to supply potable water during prolonged droughts.

Occasionally some wells are historically seasonal. Meaning that in times of high draw, during drought and high occupation of seasonal homes, they cannot maintain the expected quality or quantity level. Those wells will be rested during the summer months to recoup. This reduces the number of options the systems manager have to meet draw demand without drawing a well down to dangerous levels, and in some cases small systems may have only one reliable well.

So, back to the train of thought on 'system' power washing vs collected rainwater power washing. When you look at what it takes and the cost to have tested and approved potable water, there should be no question which way to go.

To this I add my belief that Islanders are sensible and practical people, (as proven by the number of tanks at the lumberyard awaiting a home,) living the island way---as independent and with as light a footprint as possible.

Keep up the good work folks, and recognizing the need to power wash in our mossy environment, please look up your system regs---then buy your tank.

Also, you will not be hassled by your neighbours if you are sporting a 'Garden Powered by Rainwater' sign on your gatepost (available through MIIWSS). Contact 250-539-3491.

With respect and recognition that we are all trying,
Mary Cooper, Past Pres, for the Board MIIWSS

OCTober 2016 newsletter

A Forum On The Water Sustainability Act

Saturday, October 22, 2016
1 to 4pm, Agricultural Hall, 430 Fernhill Rd, Mayne Island

Informing well dependant island businesses,societies and services about the new BC Water Sustainability Act that came into effect last February 29 has been occupying our time of late.

Firstly, private well owners who use their water for household use only will not be affected by the Act at this time. This includes B&Bs with under three rental rooms.

The Act does, however, cover all water systems, hall rentals (food served), clinics, restaurants, grocery stores, people who produce food for sale, etc. If you are holding a one or two day public event, using your well, you will need a short term permit. Please note that if your business is on leased property, it is the property owner who is affected.

This Act requires that the well be registered with the Ministry, and metered for usage.

There are two grace periods for registering fees. The first is a one year grace period from February 29, 2016 to March 1, 2017. If you register within that time span, there are no registration fees and the process is simplified.

The 2nd grace period covers the following two years. Registration fees, are again waived but the paper work becomes more onerous, requiring well history, etc. When that grace period expires, all wells will be registered as new wells with a registration fee of up to $1000.

Once the well is registered, there is an annual fee with a base of $200.00, using a graduated scale based on usage.

The hold-over from the old mining days remaining in the Act is FITFIR. First In Time, First In Right. This is the carrot for encouraging early well registration. If you attend the forum, you will acquire a more comprehensive explanation than space here allows, not to mention Act nuances well above our 'pay scale'.

To clarify one point that arises in conversations. For businesses having their well registered and inspected by Island Health, IH covers water quality. This new Act covers quantity.

Public notification from the Ministry at the time of writing has been negligible. Because of that, MIIWSS is attempting to assist our affected islanders by offering a forum with the Ministry of Lands, Forests and Natural Resources. Please see ad for details.

No-one settles quietly following new legislation, but BC and California are the only areas on the continent that had never enacted groundwater legislation. Our new Act has been in the consultation and writing phase for several years, and MIIWSS attended, offering island opinions at those workshops, mostly pushing the case for legislating hydrofracturing of water wells on the islands.

In the long term it will be good for our water supply, and make larger consumers more aware and conservation conscious.

Indications to date have been of a good attendance at the forum from Pender, Mayne Saturna and Galiano. It is our belief that we always need to be able to base our decisions on good factual information. MIIWSS hopes this forum will offer that to our fellow islanders.

Best regards to all our island friends,
Mary Cooper,
Past Pres., for MIIWSS board

September 2016 article

Areas of Mayne Island are in water crisis mode. All islanders and island guests are requested/expected to use island water for household needs only.

Absolutely no power-washing, water gardens, car washing, etc.

If this sounds like overkill, speak with folks in affected areas. Practice going to your taps and tell yourself 'oops, no water'. Live without a flushable toilet for a few days.

For those who have water, we need to remind ourselves that we are all poised on top of a 'water bubble' completely surrounded by salt water. In some form or other, we each have a straw into that single bubble, so complacency or not caring is not an option.

The ' water smart island choir' has sung this song before, but there are many who still believe their petunias and spiffy driveways are more important than their neighbour having drinking water. The water systems are on their toes, since a tanker of delivered off island water equals $1000.00. It is the taxpayer within that water system that is going to foot the bill for those pretty petunias. One tanker rarely does the job---think five? ten?

Private well owners realize the penalty for demanding that their well produce to their ideals as opposed to adjusting household needs. Hopefully, they will think of their straw in that bubble too.

We have discussed trees over the past several years of drought, and we are now starting to see serious results. Dead cedars are appearing and others are showing stress. The water table has obviously dropped below their ability to tap. This creates another danger in that those trees become a fire hazard, affecting the safety of the entire island.

We have it within our power to better all of these 'island-in-drought distress' features. If we collect rainwater, our aquifer draw reduces during drought periods, leaving more for flora. We save tax dollars by not treating expensive drinking water for outside of household use. Consider a recommendation to buy sufficient tankage to set up a system that will serve all your needs. Good sensible thought and design will prevent a patchwork system. You will have the ability to put your toilets on collected rainwater.

Because we are extremely concerned, MIIWSS is planning a full day water workshop in the spring of 2017. We will address a household rainwater system, septic systems. Watch for news as the plans take shape.

Going home, or south?

Be sure to turn your water off at the curb stop. This is a bylawed leak preventative action for all water systems. Remember to drain your lines and your hot water tank.

For your septic system, clean your filter before you leave. It will make returning to the island a much happier event.
We all have been gifted the power to live the good life on our beautiful island. It only takes common sense and caring.

For those who enjoy both of those attributes, please care enough to spread the word.

Mary Cooper,
Past Pres, for the MIIWSS Board

Powered by Rainwater

Now available from MIIWSS
'Garden Powered by Rainwater'

Our new 'GARDEN POWERED BY RAINWATER' signs are now available.

These 12”x12” outdoor signs are aluminum both sides, cored with rigid PVC Alupanel.

$20.00 includes a MIIWSS membership . We are offering the signs at our cost, promoting the importance that rainwater collection is to our island way of caring and respecting our finite aquifers.

Rainwater collectors can now enjoy the freedom to meet their outdoor water needs. No guilt! Your new sign tells your story.

Water Systems benefit in the reduction of complaint calls about power and car/boat washing and garden watering. They will know who has rainwater collection tanks installed in the less than visible locations. No more expensive staff call outs.

 Order by e-mail: nanda3@shaw.ca or put your information and cheque in the community mail box at Gulfport Realty. Please include your name, address, phone, and e-mail for the membership info. Pick up or delivery arranged.

Be the first in your neighbour to proudly promote Water Conservation!

July 2016 Article

The Fall Fair is on everyone's agenda, so be sure to stop by our tents to say hello, find out what is new, chat with our consultants, John Richardson of Premier tanks and Brent Dennis, specializing in Onsite Wastewater System Design. John has new tank products for both water and septic and an offer for the fair of a free filter when you buy a tank.

We have educational brochures, system maps, but above all, we would like your thoughts on MIIWSS programming focusing on the coming year. Memberships are available for 2017. Still $5. Your support is always appreciated and vital, giving us that credible Islander's voice on water issues.

We have five new Small Water Systems Operators as a result of our March course. On Mayne, we congratulate Sean Skiffington, Mike Nadeau, Bartosz Barczak, and Jerry Wise. Pender's new SWSO is Scott Elliott.

“Garden Powered by Rainwater" signs are available at the fair. If you do not have yours yet, or are shopping early for an unusual gift for a gardening friend, stop by. The signs are $20.00 including a membership for 2017.

We currently have 31 signs across the island, and within those 31 collectors, there is a total of 204,080 gallons of stored rainwater, plus 2 ponds. Islanders are very serious and protective of our aquifers! A plus is that rainwater collectors are never short of water if their well or water supplier suffers quality or quantity issues.

We are still upgrading our website, miiwss.com. This month we would like to talk about the Tech Page. It covers 5 sections: Rainwater Collection, info for Water Systems, for Well Owners, for Septic Systems, and General Info.

The Tech Page explains what an Improvement District is, and it's responsibilities. Surprisingly, given there are 14 water systems on Mayne, we are often asked this question.

We cover urgent information on the dangers of hydrogen sulphide, emphasizing why you should always be partnered up when cleaning your rainwater tanks. Please take this seriously.

ID Trustees and 'hope- to- be' Trustees can access the Improvement District Manual and Trustees Handbook.

MB Labs provides the 'Meaning of your Microbiology Report ' and an 'Interpretation of a Water Analysis'. Invaluable information for well owners.

And for the real 'water nerds', we have the 'Meaning of Ion Composition' and 'Ion Composition of Seawater'.

Our goal is to cover many topics involving water where a property or well owner needs direction. If you find current and valuable information, we are delighted to look at it. We feel that by working together, we can offer the most valuable information and referral website for Islanders.

MIIWSS has actively been promoting water conservation for 14 years. The message below is just as important now as it was in 2002.

URGENT: This is crunch time of year. No watering of lawns or power washing unless you are using your own collected rainwater!



Regards, Mary Cooper,
Past Pres., for MIIWSS Board

annual general meeting

draft minutes available here...

AGM June 4th - 1:30 pm at the Agricultural Hall

Guest Speakers:
Dr. Harry Hartmann & Dr. Wendy Riggs of MB Labs, Sidney.

Are we held hostage by droughts? Rising seawater intruding on shoreline aquafers? Is there something we can do?

These concerns affect every property owner and water user on our islands. Since we are islanders through and through, we have the knowledge and concern to move towards a workable solution!

Bring your spring well test results.
Pick up your test bottles.
Water System Reports.
Chair's Report.
What are the upcoming plans for MIIWSS?

June 2016 Article.

We invite all Mayne Islanders to the AGM to chat with Drs Riggs and Hartmann from MB Labs. They are great supporters of MIIWSS and Mayne Island over many years. If you've had a water problem, these folks are your 'first aid'. Love to have a full house to show Wendy and Harry that we take our water issues very seriously, for quality, quantity and preservation.

Our agenda will allow time for lively discussions re new water regs, local issues and their affect on our Island's water sustainability.

One concern is the short term vacation rental issue. With the exception of one location, STVRs are not legal on Mayne, but this has not slowed their proliferation. What has this to do with water? Well, everything.

We are in a dire drought situation again, to the point that fires were banned May 15. Droughts are occurring earlier and becoming a constant. We have to get with the program to cope and protect what resources we have. Mayne gets its water from above. We have no natural surface water. Aquifers do deplete and concentrate minerals, including salinity and arsenic. Replenishment is not immediate!

Some water systems are sufficiently concerned about their ability to supply potable water to STVRs that ,as a protective measure, they are changing their constitutions. Others are sending letters to home owners warning of actions if upward trends in water consumption continue. They can reduce or refuse to supply until the homeowner permanently corrects the problem.

Hence, when we welcome guests to our island and our homes, or to our legal tourist accommodations, we are able to reach out and gently and productively educate. Water does not start at the taps. We do not take 1/2 hour showers, wash cars, boats, or run tap water thoughtlessly. City living is not a good training ground for an island lifestyle.

Changing constitutions and enabling refusal to supply water to STVRs secures the system from water losses. The letter approach is good, but the water is as long gone as the unwittingly offending tourist . No ability to recoup or protect .

'Away” STVR owners are not in a position to baby sit island idiosyncrasies, especially with something as intimate and habitually taken for granted as water. Simply put, it is difficult to change life long city oriented habits for a one week high priced vacation on an island struggling with very special issues.

On a positive water topic. Our Island residents are 100% better at collecting rainwater than we were even 5 years ago. Way to go folks! This is one area where we are protecting both our needs and our property values.

The enthusiastic response to “Garden Powered by Rainwater” signs is exciting. We have 20 signs across the island so far, representing 152,000 gallons of stored rainwater, plus 1 pond. If you are interested in encouraging water independence in your neighbourhood, e-mail nanda3@shaw.ca ,or leave your $20, name, contact info in the Gulfport community mailbox. MIIWSS membership included.

Rain dances are in order!

Mary Cooper,
for the MIIWSS Board

May 2016 Article.

May, a month we wait for—sunshine, gardening, a glass of wine to enhance the visuals of our labours. Here are the 'labours' of MIIWSS, working to benefit water conservation across our islands, with expectations of another drought, since April has not produced much 'wetness'.

MIIWSS is striving to get the message out. BE IN CONTROL OF YOUR ISLAND LIFE STYLE ! COLLECT RAINWATER!!!! Water, power wash, bathe on your front lawn under a hose, drive the only clean car on your island---who cares if you do it using your tankage.

Rainwater collection is the agenda, and to prevent neighbours complaining about your front lawn bath, we are offering a lovely artistic, tasteful 12 x 12 aluminum sign declaring “GARDEN POWERED BY RAINWATER'. If you are already tanked up, brag a little. You take droughts seriously, prepared to do your bit protecting aquifers.

The signs are $20.00, including a MIIWSS membership--- our cost. Watch the website and place your order. Signs will also be available at the AGM, and Fall fair.
See our ad for AGM details. We have vivacious speakers to engage your thoughts on being held hostage by drought and inaction.

Lest you console yourself thinking the drought we experienced just started last year, here is a reminder from 2012. August rainfall was 0. September rainfall was .1 of an inch. The answer ? Rainwater collection.

To assist water systems, we are facilitating, at cost, a 2 day Small Water Systems Operators course May 28 & 29. Seven are currently enrolled. If someone you know is interested, please contact Bill Warning, 250-539-2399. We especially welcome water board members desiring knowledge about the business of water delivery. It is a big responsibility.

Our website, miiwss.com, is getting a new dress and updating. Info on the 24 member water systems is current, with improved navigation. These active system members cover Mayne, Galiano, Saturna, Pender, and Salt Spring Island. The web information is well used by real estate, lawyers, fire dept., new home owners,etc.

MIIWSS is in new/renew membership mode. See AGM ad for the form, and for those who used to be, lets do it again. Without viable quantity, quality doesn't get heard! A little like water.
Tank maintenance. Now would be a good time to put about ½ cup of bleach into your tank to discourage bacteria, algae, and mosquito larva. Let's not create mosquito problems via one of our conservation solutions.

One further concern is airbnbs and water consumption by multitudes of weekly renters , coming from afar, with little knowledge or care about the stresses and concerns of islanders regarding our finite water supplies. Water systems must ,and will deal with their situations, but aquifers do not stop at Letters Patent or property boundaries. Well owners may pay the price with a depleted resource, but they may not recognize their well's sphere of influence.The effects are potentially island wide. Not a jovial note to end on.

Mary Cooper,
for the MIIWSS Board

April 2016 Article.

April seems to be the most rushed month in the year. We are deluged with Annual General Meetings, boards complying with the various laws which govern them. We, as island volunteers, strive to make those AGMs closest to our hearts.

You would also be prudent to attend AGMs that are close to your pocket book, health, and the value of your property. Those would be AGMs for water districts, MIID, the MI Health Centre, and Assisted Living. The latter three cover our more stressful life challenges. Your health, safety and ability to cope.

No water issues? Why go to that AGM?

Firstly, you pay water taxes and tolls. How is it spent? What did your Board seriously do to cope with the drought of 2015? What about the quantity and quality of your water before and after the drought? Is anyone discussing any of this? What are the long term plans for your water system? Do they have a contingency fund covering those plans? Is there a preventative maintenance plan in place? Find out how your money is spent and be comfortable with who is making those decisions.

Each property owner in an Improvement District is an equal share owner of that system. You are protecting your investment and property values by working with your water board, assuring good planning and equally good follow up. Stratas are also shared ownership.

Do remember that when you attend and vote on issues, you are sharing your opinion and expertise with a volunteer neighbour. Be respectful, or conversely, offer your expertise by standing for election to the Board.

Flushings: clean water mains.

Water systems flush mains during spring rainy seasons, before high water usage vacation times begin. In treating water, precipitants are frequently naturally created as a reaction to chlorine disinfection and are removed through flushing of mains.

Your water board Trustees will notify you of the date and time of the flush. During this period, do not use the water for any reason. Do not flush, shower etc. You will draw dirty flush water into your house lines. It is best to shut your water off at the meter or roadside connection, or ask the maintenance staff to do it for you, so that you don't accidentally draw water into your home.
Flushing is regular maintenance, assuring both you and your system stay healthy!

How good is your water?

Water systems are required to file an Annual Water Report with VIHA, which will then be posted on their website. You can access this directly via this long link: Water Samples.


MIIWSS cannot exist effectively without your support! Everyone is a welcome member. Join and support our work on behalf of our islands' water, conservation and education. Annual fees are $5.00. By cheque, payable to MIIWSS. Use free mail at Gulfport or mail to MIIWSS, 263 Laura Point Rd, Mayne Island, V0N 2J1.

MIIWSS AGM, June 4, Ag Hall,1:30 p.m.

Looking forward to hearing from you. We are all on the same page---very dusty or very wet.

Mary Cooper, Past Pres.,
for the MIIWSS Board

Contact Us
c/o Diane Plucinak
263 Laura Point Rd
Mayne Island, BC
V0N 2J1
MIIWSS Membership

By supporting MIIWSS with memberships ($5) and/or donations, you are enabling an award winning Gulf Island Society, focused on Gulf Island water issues, to continue to educate, facilitate and lobby on behalf of all Islanders