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Kelowna council supports funding for SEKID upgrade

Kelowna city council agreed Monday to support provincial funding for the South East Kelowna Irrigation District’s first phase in its water quality improvement plan.

Borrowing $15.3 million to begin the plan was rejected by SEKID ratepayers Oct. 25, and Interior Health responded by giving the improvement district until Nov. 30 to provide an alternative proposal for implementing its plan, without government assistance.

Mike Adams, environmental health officer with Interior Health, commented that it’s encouraging that all have agreed on a priority.

He admitted the SEKID has challenges, with its rural population, but he said it is among the systems within IH that is most in need of improvements.

“For any water supplier, the expectation is clean, safe tap water for users,” he noted.

The Kelowna Joint Water Committee requested council’s support after agreeing in late October that the SEKID project should have top priority for consideration for senior government funding, because it is the project that addresses the highest health risk.

Cost of implementing the first stage of SEKID’s plan would be $8.2 million.

It was following a two-hour workshop on the Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan Monday morning that council agreed to endorse the committee’s resolution to support provincial funding for Stage One of SEKID’s improvement plan.

The KJWC is made up of each of the five major water utilities—the City of Kelowna, SEKID, Black Mountain Irrigation District, Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District and Rutland Waterworks.

The 400-page plan was prepared by engineer Bob Hrasko, of Agua Consulting, with the support of all five utilities, as the best, lowest-cost solutions to reach the public health requirements of Interior Health, including flexibility as far as governance is concerned and setting out a staged plan.

In all, there are 48 individual projects to complete the eight-stage project, with a total implementation cost of $383 million.

To reach Stage Three, which would satisfy the minimum requirements of Interior Health, would cost a total of $49 million, and could be done over three years.

For ratepayers, the cost to reach that stage—without senior government assistance—varies from an annual water rate of $294 for those in Rutland Waterworks, to $1,298.67 for SEKID users. In between, GEID users would pay $721 a year to reach the third stage, while BMID users would pay $459 and those using Kelowna city water would pay $303.

Andrew Reeder, manager of utilities planning for the city, told council members Interior Health can decide to issue an order to proceed with the improvement work, in which case public consent to borrow the money would not be required.

“It would be interesting to see what would happen if SEKID did nothing by the deadline,” said Coun. Robert Hobson.

Adams said he hopes the SEKID board will look at other ways to proceed, whether with different timelines or by raising funds to begin in some other way.

He said he heard from ratepayers that they support the improvements but not the way of paying for them.

The city’s water system serves a population of 62,000, with annual demand of 15,800 mega litres, 29 per cent of the demand in the city while BMID serves 22,000 people, with 13,400 ML, or 25 per cent of the city’s demand; GEID serves 16,000 people with 7,200 ML, or 13 per cent of the demand; RWD services 13,000 with 2,920 ML (all from wells), or five per cent of the demand; and SEKID serves just 6,000 with 11,120 ML or 21 per cent of the total.

There are a number of smaller utilities which serve 1,344 people with 3,433 ML, six per cent of the total.

In all, the plan includes 21 recommendations including that all utilities adopt and implement the plan, then work to carry out an implementation strategy through a memorandum of understanding.

As well, it recommends that long-term, primary domestic water should come from three locations on Okanagan Lake and one intake on Mission Creek, supplemented by groundwater wells.

Supplying water from creeks by gravity is the most cost-effective way to provide water for agriculture, so separation of water distribution systems will be needed in some instances, where the raw water quality is poor.

Ultimately, the plan envisions interconnection capacity between all systems to reduce the impact of drought and to deal with emergencies.

Standardization should be the goal of all the utilities, from water metering to pricing.

There is more than nine per cent leakage at present throughout the system, and this should be reduced to less than five per cent, says the report.

Several councillors congratulated the five systems on working together to achieve a joint plan to improve water quality throughout Kelowna.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

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