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Improving water quality will be costly

Improving drinking water quality throughout Kelowna is going to be costly.

Between $40 million and $361 million will be required to bring all five major water utilities in the City of Kelowna up to a level of first meeting health objectives and then continuing to the stage of filtration of all water and interconnecting the utilities throughout the city.

That’s the bottom line in the Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan, a comprehensive document  produced by the Kelowna Joint Water Committee. Drafts of that report have been received by city council and the boards of the four other major water utilities as well as Interior Health and the province.

The KJWC is made up of the city water utility, Black Mountain Irrigation District, Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District, Rutland Waterworks and South East Kelowna Irrigation District.

Written by Bob Hrasko, who is manager of BMID, the draft report won’t become final until the committee receives responses from the province and Interior Health, he explained.

Local utilities have been working on upgrades in recent years, with more than $10 million worth completed in the last three years, he reported.

The four improvement districts asked the provincial government for funding assistance in 2009, but were told a city-wide water quality improvement plan had to be completed, including the best and lowest-cost solutions.

So a memorandum of understanding was agreed upon by the five major utilities and only after dozens and dozens of meetings was this report drafted.

Currently, 41 sources of water are used, including Okanagan Lake, wells and creeks, with the latter often partly controlled by upland reservoirs.

The report recommends that this be whittled down to four primary sources, three large intakes in Okanagan Lake and one on Mission Creek, and that they be supplemented by groundwater from seven wells.

Ultimately, it may be necessary to separate systems used to provide domestic water from those supplying irrigation water, although several of the utilities began as irrigation water providers.

In all, eight stages are recommended, beginning with four projects to upgrade raw water, at a cost of $13.5 million.

The second stage includes four more projects moving to UV disinfection, in addition to chlorination, for $13.8 million more.

The third stage is provision of separate system for domestic and irrigation water in several key areas, in a total of eight projects and at a cost of $13 million more.

That expenditure would bring all users up to a level where the water quality would meet the health authority’s minimum requirements.

“That addresses all the microbiologic issues,” comments Hrasko.

If the province refuses to support the work with some funding the cost of water will be very high for some users, with annual rates for SEKID users forecast to reach nearly $1,200 to complete the first three of the eight stages. Rutland Waterworks users are in the best situation, with annual rates staying at $294 to reach those first three stages, because that utility relies on underground aquifers rather than surface water.

Most utilities have already embarked on needed upgrades, with BMID $6 million to $7 million into its program, and GEID this summer completing installation of an Okanagan Lake intake, with the pump station to be constructed next year, and start-up scheduled for 2013.

The document offers a number of options for governance, but Hrasko says it’s the water that needs fixing, not the governance of the five utilities in Kelowna.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

 

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