By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The two test wells drilled next to Dominion Creek in an attempt to find a new water source for the Village of McBride were unsuccessful, The Goat has learned.

McBride Mayor Eugene Runtz first disclosed that the test wells had failed at the Feb. 22 meeting of the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George board of directors. Although a hydrologist had previously identified the drilling area as a potential site of underground creek flow, the wells drew no water, Runtz said.

“We got nothing. We went down until we hit bedrock,” he said, adding that high volumes of clay in the soil mean there is likely no holding capacity for water underground.

In a follow-up phone call Feb. 29, Runtz told The Goat that low snowpack and low flow in Dominion Creek continue to cause concern about the village’s water supply. Water levels have been consistently low throughout the winter, he said, and the reservoir dropped by some eight inches during a January cold snap.

“That’s the warning sign right there,” Runtz said. “We’re getting by, but there will be a time – unless we do something – that we’ll be in serious trouble.”

Due to a lack of year-over-year data on water levels in Dominion Creek, it’s impossible to predict how weather conditions through the remainder of winter and spring will impact the village’s water supply, said Runtz. The Village is applying for grant money from the Union of BC Municipalities’ Disaster Risk Reduction-Climate Adaptation funding program, he said. The program distributes funding from the Province to municipalities working on projects that will mitigate the local impacts of climate change, according to the Union of BC Municipalities website.

“We have to get more information about Dominion Creek itself,” he said. “And we have to get information on some of the other creeks, and maybe even out of the Fraser.”

Runtz told The Goat he will be as transparent about the results of this research as he can. He is unsure about how much of the research will be publicly available, as there may be restrictions on what can be done with Province-funded research, he said, but he hopes to share as much of it as possible with McBride residents.

In the meantime, residents will need to use as little water as possible, Runtz said. The Village asked residents to take measures to conserve water last July, and has continued to remind residents of the need to use water conservatively throughout the drought with the goal of using less than 365 cubic meters per day. Residents have been very cooperative with the Village’s recommendation to reduce water use, Runtz said. 

“We got really good reception from the populace,” he said of the Village’s recommendation to conserve water. “So we know we have enough [water] right now and we think we’ll certainly have enough for the first part of springtime. And then after that, we really don’t know. That’s a bad feeling, but that’s the situation we’re in.”

Runtz said the Village may try to find a short-term water source to meet the needs of residents as more sustainable solutions are explored.

“We’re going to need to do something right away, so that’s why I’m thinking about something to do in the short term, and then something we could do over the next two or three years,” he said.

Alternative water sources could mean drilling into other creeks or shipping water from Valemount, but these solutions are costly, Runtz said. 

“There’s not particularly a whole lot of extra money going around these days,” he said, and the Village’s most recent draft budget for water operations showed an alarming deficit.

As such, further funding from the Province may be necessary. However, Runtz told The Goat that he is glad the Village is being proactive about exploring solutions, and that the Province has been helpful.

“The fact that we’re on top of this with the government and we’re putting in for the type of grants we need, that’s really positive,” he said. “The Province has been great when it comes to this water.”