Semiahmoo must spend millions to connect with Surrey water system

Semiahmoo First Nation has appealed to Surrey for water, after White Rock told the band it would cut off its water supply within 18 months.

  • Oct. 11, 2016 12:00 p.m.

Surrey says the Semiahmoo reserve would have to install larger pipes if it wants to connect to Surrey's water supply.

Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun

The Semiahmoo First Nation will have to spend millions of dollars on infrastructure upgrades if it is to connect to the City of Surrey’s water system.

The First Nation has appealed to Surrey for water, after White Rock told the band it would cut off its water supply within 18 months. White Rock recently bought a private water utility from Edmonton-based Epcor, which had previously supplied the Semiahmoo with water for decades, and now argues the reserve falls entirely within Surrey’s municipal boundaries.

Jeff Arason, Surrey’s utility manager, said the city already supplies water to the duty free shop on the Semiahmoo Reserve, but Semiahmoo would have to come up with millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements before other connections could be made. A study by the First Nation suggests it would need to spend around $3 million for sewer and $3 million for water pipes, he said. The study noted the reserve only has one pipe that is about six inches at one end but narrows to three-quarters of an inch at the other.

Surrey is expected to release a report on Oct. 17, outlining the “opportunities and challenges” it would face if it were to provide water to the Semiahmoo First Nation. Arason said all water pipes for residential water connections must be at least eight inches in size.

Surrey is part of Metro Vancouver’s water district, which serves every municipality in the region except White Rock. The latter provides water to its 20,000 residents using wells and the Sunnyside Uplands Aquifer.

The Semiahmoo First Nation did not return calls Friday, but has previously said White Rock’s announcement caught them off guard. The reserve has had a boil-water advisory in place for years.

White Rock countered at the time that while there is no formal agreement to provide water services to the Semiahmoo, the city had continued supplying bulk water to the reserve and is committed to securing an agreement, but attempts by city staff to finalize an agreement have been stymied by the First Nation.

ksinoski@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/ksinoski

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