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North Delta history: Watershed Park kept Ladner farms lush

Today, the artesian aquifer still provides Delta with about two per cent of its drinking water
People skating on the water reservoir near Peck Road (64th Ave. today) in North Delta sometime in the 1920s. Photo courtesy of Delta Archives, photograph number No.CR-44 1982-64-11

By Nancy Demwell, Delta Museum and Archives Society

In 1910, what is now Watershed Park was called the North Delta Uplands. Its artesian springs became a major source of water for Ladner and properties south of what is now Kittson Parkway, until water was routed across the Fraser from the Seymour watershed in North Vancouver.

Artesian springs arise when groundwater beneath a heavy layer of clay and gravel bubbles up to the surface under pressure. Filtered through the layers of clay, and gravel above, it is the purest of water — among the best in the world.

In 1910, Ladner had a thriving dairy and agricultural industry hindered by local wells drying up in the summer. The solution was to drill wells at the southern slope of the North Delta Uplands, construct a pump house to pump the water up hill to a reservoir and then let gravity carry the water 15 kilometres to Ladner through wooden stave piping. The reservoir was even used in the winter months as a skating rink.

The area was cleared, and by 1920 the North Delta Uplands had been logged of its primary-growth forest, including 45-metre-high redwoods. Their stumps can still be found in today’s Watershed Park. For decades onward, the scrub land sheltered deer and bear, which were hunted by the local farmers.

Today, Watershed Park has a secondary-growth forest and has many trails enjoyed by hikers, mountain bike and horse riders.

The artesian well water is no longer exported to Ladner, but it still supplies about two per cent of Delta’s water supply, primarily to homes south of 64th Avenue. This would have cost Delta residents $350,000 per year if similar amounts were purchased from Metro Vancouver Water Systems.

The wells also provide an emergency water source for Delta in case of an earthquake or other events that may interrupt our Metro Vancouver water source.

Nancy Demwell is a board member with the Delta Museum and Archives Society.