Coastal River

Coastal River, West Coast Vancouver Island. Photo: Jeremy Koreski

It’s important to know where your water comes from, and Tofino residents are fortunate to draw water from one of the most pristine watersheds in the world. Aside from the Tla-o-quiaht village of Opitsaht, Tofino’s municipal water infrastructure is the only significant development on Meares Island. This means that the millions of litres of water supplying Tofino is some of the purest water in the world.

Reservoirs

Built in 1976, the Sharp Creek Reservoir is located near the Northeast coast of Lemmens Inlet and holds roughly 380,000 litres of water. This travels to Tofino through a submerged pipeline where water is directed either to nearby homes and businesses or pumped to a storage tank up on Barr's Mountain and then gravity-fed to those living and working north of Industrial Way.

People living south of Industrial Way get their water from Meares Island too, but their comes from the Ahkmaksis Reservoir located at the southern end of the island. Fed by Ginnard Creek, the Ahkmaksis Reservoir can store over 19 million litres of rainwater! This is also pumped to Tofino via submerged pipeline, and it arrives on land at the Ahkmaksis Treatment Facility.  Beginning in 2009, the Ahkmaksis additions to the Tofino water supply address the summertime supply challenges posed by the lack of rainfall and increase in consumption during the busy tourist season.

Treatment

Naturally occurring micro-organisms and organics can still affect the quality of our water if not treated, but because of all purifying work the old growth forest does our tap water doesn’t need much treatment. What is added is chlorine to ensure that nothing harmful makes its way through to your tap. The amount tends to increase slightly during or just after heavy rains because the soils on Meares Island become heavily saturated with water which temorarily reduces the forest’s capacity to filter all the water.

The amount of chlorine added during treatment is very small, ranging between 0.2 and 0.5 milligrams per litre at Ahkmaksis Treatment Facility and no more than 0.7 milligrams per litre at Bay Street (even when Bay Street station is treating incoming water with 0.7 mg/L, the chlorine quickly dissipates through the line bringing the output down to 0.5mg/L or less).

The Ahkmaksis Treatment Facility helps to further purify rainwater by using a Dissolved Air Flotation system (DAF) and filtration. In basic terms, this process temporarily oxygenates the water causing organic particles to bind with the oxygen and when this occurs they concentrate on the surface of the tank where they are screened off and removed. The process results in clearer water by reducing turbidity caused by the presence of suspended organic particles.

Next, the water flows through ultra-fine filters to remove any remaining particulates and the turbidity reading at Ahkmaksis is typically below 0.1 NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Units). At the Bay Street station, turbidity typically measures 0.2 NTU or lower which reflects very low turbidity. These stringent measures mean that the drinking water that comes out of your tap is as clean as it is delicious.