Pursuit of water brings honour of a lifetime for Cowichan Valley man

A lifetime of drilling on Vancouver Island to bring people drinking water has earned Ken Slade the thanks of thousands of families.

Now Slade’s pursuit of water has brought him a lifetime achievement award from the Duncan-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce.

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Slade, 84, who founded Drillwell Enterprises in 1965 and has drilled more than 6,000 wells, will receive the Black Tie Lifetime Achievement Award at the chamber’s annual awards dinner April 13.

The award recognizes a body of work across all sectors of the community — business, industry, sport, volunteerism and philanthropy.

“Drillwell is B.C.’s largest water-well drilling company. They diversified to meet market demands, were instrumental in founding industry associations and helped shape the province’s groundwater legislation,” said chamber president George Cates. “Along the way, Ken oversaw the building of the Cowichan Bay fire hall, coached girls hockey and was a Cub leader.”

Slade’s volunteer work and commitment to the community includes 50 years on the Cowichan Bay Fire Improvement District Board. He has been a Business Development Committee member at Community Futures, serves on the building and finance committee for the United Church and is a longtime member of Rotary and the chamber of commerce.

Slade’s experience in drilling on complex terrain like the Island has made his company a sought-after consultant around the world.

Drillwell has worked on drilling operations in Botswana, Indonesia, the Caribbean, New Guinea and Swaziland and continues to do so under the leadership of Slade’s sons, Paul, Calvin and David.

Slade still works in the office, but his sons don’t let him run drill rigs anymore as he is, in his word, “too hard on the equipment.”

Slade was born in 1929 in Meadow Lake, Sask., and his family moved to the Island when he was in his teens.

Slade left school after Grade 11 to go to work. After a short stint logging, he joined a drilling crew that was working on wells being drilled for the Harmac mill in Nanaimo.

Slade was with Pacific Water Wells for 17 years. In 1965, when the company started to downsize, he bought one of their rigs and started Drillwell. As his sons left high school, they joined the company. By 1982, all were partners in the business and the company diversified, adding geotechnical, environmental and exploration drilling to their services.

Drillwell is the largest water-well drilling company in the province. It estimates it has drilled 90 per cent of the water wells in Cowichan. And it is poised to remain a family business into a third generation as Slade’s grandsons, Colin and Shawn, are ready to move into partnership and gradually take over running the company.

Tickets for the chamber event are available online at blacktieawards.com or through the chamber office 250-748-1111.

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