Haida Gwaii had been shaken up by recent seismic activity, but the effects may be harder to shake off. The movement of the 7.7 magnitude earthquake and significant aftershocks has pinched off the source of a natural hot springs that was used, leaving pools dry.
Changes in the flow had been noticed since 1923, but the Banff Upper Hot Springs have been drying up each winter since 1998, and they now resort to heating up a cold source. Why the water disappears seasonally is unknown, but speculation as to the causes has ranged from climate change to human activity.
In 1964, the Radium hot springs was affected by an earthquake in Alaska which left the pools muddy for a week and a half. Their source water decreased in temperature from 45 Celsius to 39 Celsius but luckily, the flow was left intact.
Fairmont Hot Springs was temporarily shut down this summer when a mudslide disrupted their water source, and corking up the flow of visitors to the springs. After three weeks of repair, they were up and running, and catching the last few drips of tourist dollars of the season.
It’s not the hot springs’ fault. Well, it is, actually. The fault lies with a hot springs source, where the water is heated geothermally, which frequently occur along fault lines. And faults are notoriously volatile. And as the slide at Fairmont demonstrated, a source may be threatened externally as well due to its location.
“From what I understand it is a risk that exists for any natural springs,” said Nakusp CAO Linda Tynan.
In 2006, a report was prepared for the Village about different strategies that could be taken to protect the municipality’s hot springs source, although any work must be done with care.
“We do have a report at the Village office which advises of the dangers of any development near the source of the hot springs (e.g. drilling, excavating) as even this type of activity could pose a threat,” Tynan told the Arrow Lakes News via email.
Paul Blackett of Kala Groundwater, who prepared the 2006 report, suggested several ways to protect the source, many of which have been implemented. According to an ALN article published in November 2006, Blackett also said that logging or other heavy activity in the spring capture zone could affect the source.
“I don’t know of any way to secure a source,” the CAO added, admitting that she hasn’t been working with the Village long enough to know if research into the topic has been done. “Some of the previous engineering reports we have had done may address this issue.”