Thousands of Nanaimoites Vanish!
Ron Bolin: Feb. 9, 2012
Statistics Canada began the public release of 2011 population data yesterday (Wed. ,Feb. 9, 2012). The data for Nanaimo showed a population for the city of 83,810, up from 78,692 in 2006, giving a growth rate of 6.5% over the five year inter-census period or about 1.26% per year. This contrasts with the growth rate of 11.1% for the five years which is shown in the City’s Community Profile-2010 document which projected our 2011 population to be 87,464. See:
This gives us a few extra years to clear up the apparent confusion regarding Nanaimo’s water needs and the means available to meet them. See Nanaimo’s Water Supply Strategic Plan:
This document likewise uses projections which seriously exaggerate our need to spend millions of dollars quickly to serve our (not so) burgeoning population growth and calls into question the need for an increase in water rates of 5% every year. It reports that the city has enough water to handle residential development until the year 2071, assuming a growth rate of 1.3%. In point of fact the growth rate has been less than this at about 1.26%. And at the same time a number of water saving efficiencies have been introduced.
Why are citizens being given the hustle by our Staff and Council in their continuous battle to gain ever more control over our pocketbooks through taxation?
The City certainly have long range plans including the ‘deal” with Harmac to tap into their water for ” emergency purposes’!
This now almost complete connection is proving to be for more urban expansion into Cable Bay Lands & Island Timberlands..
Even “if” we do require more water; do we actually have enough of it?
There is enough information to suggest we do not.
We cannot expand forever our finances (taxes) will not allow it.
Could it be that part of the issue is a make work initative for City Staff?
11.1% over five years! What were they smoking?
The previous stats-can 5 year growth rate (2001 – 205) was around 8.2%. In as much as no new industry or any other increase in productivity was recorded in the last five years a decline in growth could have been predicted, but honest conservative projections would have kept the growth rate the same (accounting for a margin of error).
This is what often happens with city lead marketing projects. The figures are fudged to make the city look more attractive to investors. What happens to this investors once they realize that they have been lied too, doesn’t seem to matter to anyone.
These fake stats are also used to weasel tax money from taxpayers. Taxpayers never seem to realize that they have been lied too, so that is almost too easy. Its like taking candy from a baby.
Am I the only one who got the impression from the newspaper article headlines that the population growth was just short of booming? The kind of growth rate we are experiencing is very small. There is also reason to believe that the rate of growth will slow even more over the next five years, and in the five years after that the growth will level off and perhaps even start to decline.
This is a city that is becoming more inefficient. Over the long term this will mean the Nanaimo will not be able to compete with other similar sized communities in BC for attracting business, tourism and other wealth generating projects. No amount of fudging the numbers will save us from an inevitable decline brought about by the inexcusably bad management we are presently receiving.
I don’t know. I think statistics are just fancy math. Sort of like a politician and their accounting practices – not a single one of them really know what it costs or how many there are.
The key issue there is that while the City thought it was on target to grow (and it may be) the fact is there is nothing to do there as far as industry so people between the ages of 20 and 50 are away working. I’m one of those – while my wife is at home with my boys I’m stuck in Fort Hills (north of Fort McMurray) doing some work for Suncor because there isn’t a single project, program or anything of that sort that can get me the money I need to pay my taxes for everything and still stay above water and pay down the mortgage.
Anyone that has retired thinks I’m crazy when I tell them that $60K a year is poverty and $120K a year is just breaking even when you consider all this stupid tax we pay just to support all these programs for all these people that want them. Sorry for the rant but it is what it is.
Mark Twain said that there are three kinds of liars; liars, dammed liars and statisticians. In this case projecting a 11.1% growth rate isn’t using a statistic based projection to mislead; its just plain lying. It;s a made-up number designed to mislead.
These days there are a number of easy ways to handle this kind of deception. Suppose you where some sort of delegation from a large hotel chain and you where listening to a pitch from a delegation from Nanaimo. In the pitch where numbers like this 11.1% growth projection. One of your group could get on his or her cell phone and within seconds verify the validity of the Nanaimo delegations claims. How do you think a corporate leader responsible to shareholders for millions of investment dollars would respond to such bullshit?
There are so many ways you can make the numbers work for you. So you are right don’t be fooled. It’s a game
It’s true what Wyat says.
There area hundreds of workers that have left Nanaimo for the oil patch & further fields.
I see it all the time.
Should a large percentage of these people decide to move closer to their new workplace Nanaimo could see many more houses on the market.
People will only split up the family for so long before it causes grief of one type or another.
The assumption that the local population will continue to grow at a significant rate (1.5% per year or greater) underlies City Hall’s project planning. I agree with Dan that the predicted growth may not come about – that at some point there might even be population decline. Despite the liberal use of “sustainability” be City Hall bureaucrats Nanaimo’s economy is anything but sustainable. The area manufactures little, grows almost nothing, does not have large unexploited reserves of natural resources. In about fifteen years the baby boomer retirement wave will have passed and the university will be competing for a smaller population pf potential students. A stagnant population may be facing a difficult struggle to pay for the project costs that were bequeathed to it by “big thinking” City Hall managers fifteen years earlier.
City Hall seems to have small minded peole that can not reach out and really look to the future. What they need to be looking at are how to bring industries here that can “sustain” the growth they think is going to happen. I am not seeing this at all. Stop the talk about the convention centre, that is small money for here. Look at the up and coming industries that could work on this island. The old saying, ‘Look outside the Box’ does apply here.
An email to Mr. Bill Sims regarding the population projections used in generating the currently espoused need to enlarge our water catchment capabilities at great expense elicited the following comments from him which covers a number of issues in this regard. It does not, as he should not, cover the politics of the situation which are matters for our City Council and for us as citizens and taxpayers.
Good afternoon Ron
Essentially, the situation has not changed since 2007, except that we are 5 years closer to exceeding our water supply capacity. You have raised several issues, which I interpret you are trying to understand the rationale for the need to increase the City’s water supply by 2020. There are more variables involved than population and per capita use.
How water is stored
The City stores water that falls as rain and snow during the winter months in Jump Lake. We generally aim to be at full storage by late June. Over the course of the summer, when the watershed is not ‘making water’, we release the stored water from Jump Lake to our intakes at South Fork dam. We release enough to meet the City’s demand, plus an amount required to keep base flow in the Nanaimo River, as required by our water licence. Thus, as the summer wears on, Jump Lake gets drawn down, much like draining a bathtub. The goal is always to ensure there is enough water in the lake to last until it can be filled up again the next winter. We typically strive to have 30% storage left, in case dry weather continues into October. This buffer allows for imprecision in the way water is released, and is premised on the fact that once water is released down the river, you can’t get it back.
The timing for a new supply is not based on Census Canada population figures. The City uses BC Stats population figures as these are updated annually, and also provide growth projections. It is interesting to note that there is a consistent discrepancy between Census Canada and BC Stats population estimates of about 3,000 people, in each of the census years, but the important thing is that growth rates have been parallel. The City’s population figures also include Snuneymuxw IR 1 and Southwest Extension. BC Stats population growth rates for Nanaimo over the past 10 years has shown an average growth rate of 1.4%. Their projections for the region until 2025 show a growth rate of 1.5%, and thereafter to 2036 growth is projected at 1.1%.
We have been monitoring annual actual population against the figures used in the Water Supply Strategic Plan, and we are spot on with those figures.
Population is a surrogate means of explaining to the public our water supply capacity. Our annual water use also depends upon population: in general, the higher the population, the higher annual water use, although climate (read: summer irrigation) plays an important role as well.
Per capita water use
The timing for a new supply is only indirectly dependent upon per capita water use, to the extent that summer-time use draws upon the water stored in Jump Lake. Annual average per capita consumption is indeed declining, as water conservation efforts have taken hold, and the public is more water-conscious. Summer-time per capita use largely depends on the weather and how much irrigation occurs, but in general is on the decline – about 5% down in the past 5 years. The City’s daily per capita water delivered is about 530 Litres, based on the past five years. This compares quite favourably to the Canadian average of 640 Litres, or the BC average of 680 Litres. (These figures are for total water delivered for all uses: residential, institutional, industrial, commercial)
You will note that the Strategic Plan projected declines in the per capita daily demand over time. Our actual averages are lower than the projections – this is a good thing in a couple of ways: one, we are using less water all the time, and two, our predictions for supply timing may be slightly conservative.
The timing for a new supply is more dependent upon the annual total water used by the City than other variables. The Strategic Plan projected annual amounts, based on population projections and annual per capita consumption. However, actual annual amounts vary widely, based largely on annual weather patterns. In 2011 – a wet year, we saw the lowest annual water use since 1999 (15.4 million m3). In contrast, in 2009, we saw our highest ever water use at 17.5 million m3. The summer time demand impacts the rate of drawdown in Jump Lake (or how much storage is used).
The City releases more water to keep summer base flows in the Nanaimo River for fish and recreation than it consumes. We release 86 million litres per day, every day from June to October for fisheries augmentation, and consume approximately 62 million litres per day during the summer months. In the fall, we work with Water Stewardship, Fisheries & Oceans, Snuneymuxw, Nanaimo Forest Products and others to deliver a pulse release to bring salmon in the estuary upstream away from predation. These two fisheries releases take a big bite out of summer time storage.
As noted above, climate plays a large role in determining the timing of increasing the water supply. The South Nanaimo Watershed Yield Assessment, which was completed in support of the Water Supply Strategic Plan, was undertaken specifically to answer the question of ‘when is new supply required’. Along with population and annual demand, this study examined the total water produced by the South Fork watershed on an annual basis, as well as water produced during the summer. The summertime yield along with summer time water consumption has the largest impact on timing of additional water supply. Essentially, the volume of storage used during the summer increases with population. It is also dependent upon how much water is flowing into the lake. The Yield Assessment determined the inflow for a 10-year drought (or a typical drought that occurs once in ten years). This is not overly conservative, but looking forward, we have to base timing on a dry year, rather than crossing our fingers and hoping for a wet summer.
The Yield Assessment modelled climate change impacts, based on a moderate level of impact. In general, it is anticipated that annual precipitation rates will decline slightly, but that winters will be wetter and summers will be drier. Less and less precip will fall as snow, which provides storage on the hillsides. It notes that the low summer yield (water produced in the summer time) is expected to decline significantly in the next 50 years. The Yield Assessment incrementally applied the effects of climate change to determine the impact on timing to when the capacity of Jump Lake would be exceeded. A ‘middle of the road’ climate change impact accelerates the need for additional water supply by 5 years.
New Supply Timing
The above is a brief summary of the factors that determine when the City’s existing supply capacity will be exceeded, and additional sources must be developed.
Based on the following factors, we expect to hit this point by the year 2020, which is the year that the City is expected to reach 100,000 people:
– Population growth of 1.5% per year
– Water conservation impacts reducing consumption
– A ‘ten year’ low summer-time yield in the watershed
– An October dry period
– Moderate impacts of climate change
– Ongoing fisheries releases as required by our water licence and the Nanaimo River Watershed Management Plan
– Existing watering restrictions
Most importantly, it is critical to be more on the conservative side, since future supply development will be a long process. It is difficult to predict how long things take, but guaranteed it will take longer than we expect! It is incumbent upon the City to move as proactively as possible, since this is more economic than reacting to a crisis.
There are many things to work through before we get to the point of augmenting the supply, including approvals, licensing, design, construction, commissioning etc. As we work through this process, we would continue to monitor the timing against the factors noted above. In an ideal world, we will have everything in place so that the City’s water supply is augmented by the time it is needed to support continued growth. Against this idealism, we need to keep a bit of reality and recognize there are as-yet unknowns to contend with. This would likely result in delays. As we get squeezed on being able to keep up with demand from Jump Lake, we would recommend imposing more severe watering restrictions, as a means of buying ourselves another year or two.
I apologize for such a long email and going off tangent from your questions. However, I think it’s important to understand the complexities in the timing to develop a new water supply. You are welcome to review the Watershed Yield Assessment; I can arrange to loan a copy for pick-up.
I know it has Mr. Sims signature, but could it have been co-written by the new engineer in charge of public works?
On the issue of summer consumption….. ban lawn sprinkling altogether. When everyone’s lawn browns out at the same time no one will have to keep up with anyone.
Make a concerted effort to identify and curtail the excessive waste of water we are all guilty of. The Nanaimo consumption is between 30 – 40% higher than the average Canadian…. we have lots of room to improve.