Langley Targets Water with Ambitious Plan

Brian Lewis, The Province - Sunday, June 01, 2008

"When the well is dry," Benjamin Franklin said several centuries ago, "we learn the worth of water."

Langley Township quotes the legendary U.S. figure to underline the importance of its new draft Water Management Plan.

Water is the most important of all resources, but in this Fraser Valley community rapid growth rates are straining its aquifers to the point that some of its 5,000 wells are running dry. That's a warning flag because 80 per cent of the township's water, either through wells or pipes, comes from its aquifers, and only 20 per cent is supplied from the Greater Vancouver Water District's reservoirs.

If actions are not taken quickly, water experts say a repeat of the crisis that hit Tofino several years ago could be repeated in the much larger township.

The draft plan shows, for example, that one major township aquifer has dropped nearly 10 metres over the past 30 years. Declines like this drove Langley to embark on what is now B.C.'s first comprehensive groundwater planning document.

Langley's also taking action because, surprisingly, B.C. is the only province that doesn't regulate groundwater to prevent overuse. That makes the township a test case, and its 45 page plan's public-consultation phase is being closely watched by other water-conscious communities in the Fraser Valley, Gulf Islands and Cowichan and Nicola valleys, to name a few.

"Without action, the rapid population growth, expanding industrial and commercial developments, intensification of agricultural practices and potentially adverse climate changes effects will exacerbate demands on this valuable resource," the plan warns...