Debating control of Kelowna water quality

Four major water improvement districts say political aspirations shouldn't cloud existing water quality control agreements.

  • Fri Sep 25th, 2015 8:00pm
  • News

The four major water improvement districts have waded into a debate about the future water quality for all Kelowna residents.

In a media release, representatives of the Black Mountain Irrigation District (BMID), Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District (GEID), Rutland Waterworks (RWW) and South East Kelowna Irrigation District (SEKID) saw the need to express their collective viewpoint on water quality.

Their comments come after recent public comments on the issue in letters to the editor as well as Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran speaking out about the issues concerning multiple water improvement districts that provide water to local residents and the cost under that system to carry out significant water quality upgrades as demanded by standards set out by the provincial government.

While the City of Kelowna may be responsible for the interests of all Kelowna residents; water related issues fall under the jurisdiction of the respective water utility each having Letters Patent under the Local Government Act, stated the news release.

“The five water purveyors have come together and formed the Kelowna Joint Water Committee in an effort to work together on water related issues within the City of Kelowna. The KJWC was formed in 1990 between the five water purveyors within the City of Kelowna; namely Black Mountain Irrigation District (BMID), City of Kelowna (CoK), Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District (GEID), Rutland Waterworks (RWW) and South East Kelowna Irrigation District (SEKID).”

The press release said all five water purveyors recognize the need for water quality improvements. A plan for the entire cty was put together called the Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan (www.kjwc.org/kjwc_programs/reports/news/Reports/15/06/12/2012-Kelowna-Interated-Water-Supply-Plan).

This plan was completed in 2012 and all five water utilities were in agreement and signed off on the implementation strategy. This plan has been endorsed by the province and Interior Health.

The purpose of the plan was to give clear direction on how to best deal with the water issues in Kelowna, provide cost estimates and prioritize projects.

This plan was also necessary to apply for grant funding for infrastructure projects. While improvement districts are not eligible to apply directly for grant funding, the City of Kelowna may apply on behalf of the improvement district.

“This information has been clearly communicated from both staff and ministers at the provincial level. Much of what has been said in the media about this lately revolves around the amalgamation or dissolution of the improvement districts in order to gain grant funding, stated the press release.

“The province has been very clear that this is not the case; further more the province has gone as far to say that amalgamation is not a requirement of grant funding; yet there continues to be some confusion about the issues and the processes.”

Prior to grant funding being awarded, a routine value planning exercise of the KIWSP must be completed to make sure that tax dollars are not wasted and the plan can stand up to the scrutiny of a third party review.

“The Improvement Districts welcomes this exercise and intends to participate fully,” continued the press release.

“The KIWSP already includes looking at the governance of the water utilities in the future to make sure that the best and lowest cost water is always available to the residents of Kelowna, regardless of what area of the city they live in.

“While the idea of one grand interconnected utility may sound appealing there are realistic technical challenges with this notion. With different sources and water qualities within the five districts would those in a district with better water quality be willing to sacrifice their good water and have water from a utility with lesser quality water now being delivered to their homes and businesses?

“If one only stops for a moment and thinks about the implications of one utility prior to uniform water quality it quickly becomes apparent that this strategy is flawed from the very start.”

The press release concluded by calling for the recognition of th KIWSP, which has been endorsed by the various levels of government as well as Interior Health, and to set aside political aspirations on this issue and work with the districts to see true change and improvement to water quality for the residents of Kelowna.