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Cumberland Water System and Water Quality

This page was last reviewed on January 17, 2023.

View the Long Term Water Supply Strategy, Watershed Management Plan, and other water plans and studies on the Village’s drinking water system.

Cumberland’s drinking water comes from five lakes located in the Cumberland Creek and Perseverance Creek sub-watersheds as well as a ground source at Coal Creek Historic Park. On average, 1500m3 is drawn from the reservoirs each day and 600m3 is drawn from the well.

The well water was introduced into the water system in late 2013, and this cleaner groundwater is a welcome addition to Cumberland’s drinking water, helping to improve the overall quality of the water. Water from this well is chlorinated at a control building within the park and then travels through a new water main constructed under the western section of Dunsmuir Avenue, known as Camp Road, where it is discharged then into the Village’s water distribution system.

At full storage capacity the reservoirs hold 891,000 m3 of water. Approximately 90 liters of water per second can be drawn from the reservoirs, while approximately 16 litres of water per second can be drawn from the Coal Creek well. Because these sources of water are limited, Cumberland must manage its water sources wisely to limit the demand for new and potentially expensive sources of water. Water conservation during the summer months is key to this strategy.

Find out about seasonal water restrictions, how you can conserve water.

History of the Water System

The water system infrastructure was initially owned and operated by the Cumberland-Union Water-Works Company, which began operation in July 1897 with the first pipes bringing water from Hamilton Creek.

In 1949, the then City of of Cumberland held a referendum to approve borrowing of $50,000 to purchase the water works system from the company. The bylaw was adopted on November 7, 1949.

Water System Improvements

View Upcoming Village Projects for more information on updates to the water system. View the September 2019 project update.

Seismic improvements to Stevens Lake dam have been completed and other structure improvements are expected to take place in the coming years, including seismic upgrades to the No. 2 dam. This work will lessen the potential for failure of these dams due to an earthquake.

In 2016 a bathometric survey was taken of the Allen Lake reservoir in order to accurately measure water storage.

In 2017, the twinning of the water supply main was completed. This twinning was necessary for a number of reasons: to provide redundancy to the older single supply main, and to help reduce water flow velocities in the original pipe during peak water demand periods and in turn improve system pressures at the top end of the main water pressure zone. The Village will also now have the ability to control flows from each surface water reservoir independently, which will allow maintenance on either pipe without affecting the supply to the community.

Water Treatment Upgrades 2016-2019

The Island Health’s 2007 surface water treatment policy, nicknamed the 4-3-2-1 policy, requires adequate removal or inactivation of pathogenic organisms that may be present in raw water. Cumberland must meet these requirements in order to provide safe drinking water for residents and it is a condition of Cumberland’s operating permit.

Island Health has ordered that the Village provide a second treatment method in addition to chlorination to its drinking water system. Cumberland is proposing to install ultraviolet disinfection to neutralize bacteria and parasites such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium that can cause water-borne diseases.

An updated long term water supply strategy was received by Council in June 2016. In July 2016, Council approved upgrades to the Village’s water treatment, storage and distribution infrastructure. In March 2017, the Village received a grant from the federal/provincial Clean Water and Wastewater Fund that will pay for 83% of eligible costs (up to $4 988 300) for the improvements.

  • Secure land for locating new UV and chlorine water treatment plant and storage reservoir – Completed in 2016
  • Begin construction of new water treatment plant and storage reservoir – Summer/Fall 2018 to Spring 2019

The treatment plan will include dual barrier disinfection treatment made up of ultra violet (UV) and chlorine. The new chlorine system will generate a low chlorine solution from salt by means of an electrolysis process, called a sodium hypochlorite generation unit. This process is much safer than using chlorine gas or liquid chlorine solution, and is becoming the new industry standard in chlorine disinfection processes for drinking water. The Village will also need to continue to meet the filtration deferral conditions.

The storage reservoir will store treated water so that the new treatment plant and equipment can be sized to maximum day demand (MDD) and not peak hour demand (PHD). This means a smaller treatment plant footprint with smaller equipment, which means cost savings. Additional benefits include emergency storage if we had to shut off the surface water supply, built-in free storage, reduction of pressure from the Henderson Lake feed leading to the elimination of valve and fire bypass currently in place, allow for improved chlorine mixing and contact time, and allow for some turbidity settlement in the tank itself.

Cost of Upgrades:

The Village has received a grant to pay for 83% of capital costs for these improvements. The remainder will be paid through a parcel tax of $63-74 (depending on the length of the term).

Your utility bill will increase gradually to pay for these projects, including expected increased operating costs for the new treatment plant. The increased amount may be reduced as the community grows and more property owners share the cost to repay the debt.

Water Quality and Protection

Cumberland’s water is treated with chlorination which kills viruses and keeps the water free of harmful bacteria and some other pathogenic organisms. The water is tested weekly for bacteria by Village staff at six sites located throughout Cumberland and Royston and results are submitted to Island Health. Annual drinking water reports are submitted to Island Health each year.

2022 Annual Drinking Water Report

2021 Annual Drinking Water Report

2020 Annual Drinking Water Report

2019 Annual Drinking Water Report

2018 Annual Drinking Water Report

2017 Annual Drinking Water Report

2016 Annual Drinking Water Report

2015 Treated Water Analysis

2015 Well Water Analysis – Before Treatment

2014 Surface Water Analysis – Before Treatment

2014 Well Water Analysis – Before Treatment

Please help protect the quality of your drinking water by not not swimming in the lakes or camping or walking your dog close to the lakes. This will reduce the potential for the introduction of fecal contaminants that can enter the water through storm water run off.

Automatic Water Flushing

Water flushing from dead-end water lines ensures that treated water flows through these lines and the water does not become stagnant. These dead-end lines are located at

  • the west end of Kendal Avenue, and
  • the Comox Valley Parkway east of the Discovery Centre

Drawing treated water to the ends of these water lines keeps the proper amount of residual chlorine in the water distribution system, making sure that the water is safe.

Cumberland Creek and Perseverance Creek Sub-Watersheds

The Cumberland Creek and Perseverance Creek watersheds are sub-watersheds of the Comox Lake watershed. These two sub-watersheds encompass about 900 hectares. The sub-watersheds are located within the Village of Cumberland and also within the boundaries of Comox Valley Regional District Electoral Area A. While some of the watershed land is owned by the Village of Cumberland, including the immediate areas around the lakes, much of the land is privately held forest land owned by TimberWest.

The land owned by forest companies is designated as Private Managed Forest and forestry practices must adhere to the Private Managed Forest Land Act as well as other federal and provincial regulations such as the Water Act, Fisheries Act, and Drinking Water Protection Act. TimberWest updates the Village on its harvesting plans regularly. Timber harvesting reviews consider biodiversity, ecosystems, terrain stability, watersheds, economics, cut block designs, and reforestation. The landowner is aware that their activities can impact the quality of Cumberland’s drinking water. Proposed harvesting plans for 2013/2014 include 2 blocks of 35 hectares in upper Cumberland Creek making up 3% of the entire Comox Lake watershed.

Coal Creek Well Project 2012/2013

Water from the Coal Creek well is chlorinated at a control building within the park and then travels through a new water main constructed under the western section of Dunsmuir Avenue, known as Camp Road, where it is then discharged into the Village’s water distribution system.

While the majority of the Village’s water will continue to come from the Cumberland Creek and Perseverance Creek watersheds, this new ground water source will help the Village work toward meeting the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s high standards for water treatment. In the summer months when water levels are low in the watershed reservoirs, more water can be drawn from the Coal Creek well, making for cleaner and safer water for Cumberland residents.

The new well pump incorporates the use of a variable frequency drive, enabling better control and improved efficiency and therefore less energy to pump the water out of the ground. The project also contributes to water conservation as the new water main under Dunsmuir Avenue replaced what was likely one of the oldest and leakiest water mains in the Village.

Funds to construct the well and control building came from development cost charges for water infrastructure. Development cost charges are imposed on any new development to fund the capital costs of certain works to service new development. Funding for the new water main under Dunsmuir Avenue came from a combination of federal Community Works Funds, water development cost charges, and water utility revenue.

The cost to design and construct the Coal Creek well and control building was approximately $560,000. The cost of the upgrade to a portion of the Dunsmuir Avenue water main was $561,500.

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