GEID water quality issues addressed

Caissons to form the wetwell at the new  Okanagan Lake intake are being unloaded at the Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District works yard, ready for transport later this summer to the site. - Darren Schlamp/Contributor
Caissons to form the wetwell at the new Okanagan Lake intake are being unloaded at the Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District works yard, ready for transport later this summer to the site.
— image credit: Darren Schlamp/Contributor

Tap water the colour of strong tea should be a thing of the past in the Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District two years from now—at a cost of about $12 million.

The district received approval this week from Fisheries and Oceans Canada for construction of a pump station to take water from Okanagan Lake instead of its current upland storage reservoirs.

The water stored in those reservoirs would then go directly into Okanagan Lake instead of the McKinley Reservoir, and Okanagan Lake water would be pumped into McKinley Reservoir for distribution through the district’s system to both domestic and irrigation customers.

Operations manager Darren Schlamp explained these environmental approvals have taken two years, delaying construction by a year, but now it’s expected work on the intake will begin this month and be completed in late 2012.

Because the district’s storage reservoirs, Bulman, South and Postill Lakes, are at an elevation of 1,500 to 2,000 metres, rather than higher than that, they suffer from colour as the result of tannins and lignins from the watershed, explained Schlamp.

Even in summer, there’s a distinct yellowish look to the GEID tap water, which will be clear once the transition to use of water directly from Okanagan Lake is completed. Instead of 200 units of colour and 15 to 45 NTU (a measure of turbidity or suspended solids), the change to use of Okanagan Lake water should lower that to less than five colour units and .6 NTU.

At present, GEID water can be as good as that from Okanagan Lake in winter, but the other three seasons, it’s not that attractive.The district has already completed some parts of the project, including about two kilometres of large-diameter (750 millimetre) water transmission main between the pump station site and McKinley Reservoir.

A Water Quality Advisory has been in place in Glenmore since 2006.

“GEID’s customers have been waiting patiently for higher quality water and the board of trustees is pleased to announce that the wait is nearly over,” said board chair Bob Fugger.

An application to the province for an alternate point of diversion (from a 1931 licence at Manhattan Point) is currently under consideration, but it’s expected it will be approved.

The next stage would be a $3 million ultraviolet disinfection system.

Water rates have been increasing in the district since 2008 to begin paying for the improvements and it’s expected they will continue to go up.

Electricity costs will go up considerably for the district when it begins pumping water from Okanagan Lake instead of relying on flows from upper reservoirs.

As mitigation for construction of the intake, the district is required to pay $190,000, which will go toward restoration work in Mission Creek to improve fish habitat.

There’s a population of 13,000 to 15,000 in GEID and about half the district’s water is domestic and half irrigation.


Separating domestic and irrigation in order that domestic can be treated to a higher level than irrigation water would cost in the area of $2.5 million in the Ellison area and about $6 million in the Glenmore part of the district, said Schlamp.



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