August 31, 2006 in City

B.C. resort town faces water crisis

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review
File photo courtesy of Tricia Timmermans photo

Surf rolls in near Tofino on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The town, which typically gets about 10 feet of rain a year, is suffering a severe water shortage.
(Full-size photo)

TOFINO, B. C. – Hotels, resorts and other businesses in this burgeoning rain forest tourist mecca on Vancouver Island have been told to shut down because of a water shortage.

Because of high demand and very little rain since July, the town’s main reservoir is so depleted that there might not be enough water to fight a fire, Mayor John Fraser said Tuesday.

“That’s why the panic’s on,” Fraser said.

A notice issued Tuesday said residential water service was being given priority in the picturesque town of 1,500 year-round residents at the western end of the Trans-Canada Highway.

“The WATER SHORTAGE has become extremely severe,” the notice read. “All lodging, food service businesses are asked to shut down PRIOR TO FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 1ST, 2006 until further notice. Other commercial water users must not consume any water whatsoever.”

Going into the Labor Day weekend, one of the area’s busiest of the year, “we’re communicating with resorts, asking them to contact guests and advise them they possibly don’t want to come out there right now,” said Leif Pedersen, administrator for the District of Tofino.

The town is getting water from a secondary source, Ginnard Creek, and residents have been told to boil it as a precaution.

Officials also are working to have firetrucks haul water to the reservoir from as far as Ucluelet, about a 30-minute drive to the south, Pedersen said.

“It will be going on constantly,” he said.

Ucluelet administrator Geoff Lyons said his town can spare the water because its fish processing plants have been operating at less than full capacity.

Tofino, just north of Pacific Rim National Park and about 210 miles northwest of Victoria, gets roughly 10 feet of rain a year, but Pedersen said the reservoir is so low that “we don’t know” how much water is left.

A man who identified himself only as Ron, operator of the Tough City Inn and Tough City Sushi, said he would defy the order.

“We’re not closing because of this,” he said. “The (local) council has never come up to any business ever and said, ‘What are two things we can do to help you?’ They’ve just stuck it to everybody here.”

He said the panel had dithered on the water problem while concentrating on more minor issues such as downtown parking and complained that the district made him post a $27,000 bond to landscape his business but has no water for the plants.

“Now they want us to be nice to them and shut our water off on the long weekend,” Ron said. “This is the last big one that you make it (as a business).”

Sarah Gibson, assistant manager at the Maquinna Lodge, said she wasn’t sure whether to call guests and tell them not to come.

“I’ve just been on the line with the city council trying to figure it out here,” Gibson said. “Three days’ notice and we have to what, call every reservation and try and say good luck finding somewhere else, you can’t come?”

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