South-east Kelowna residents gather round information boards set up by the city at the recent open house about the planned upgrade to the water system in the area.—Image credit: Alistair Waters/Capital News

South-east Kelowna water plan raises concerns

Some residents question why they may have to pay higher fees than existing city water users.

If you live in south-east Kelowna, get ready for plenty of traffic headaches over the next couple of years.

That’s because many roads in the area will be dug up to install new water pipes as the city moves to complete the first stage of its huge new water distribution plan.

The first phase—a $63 million renovation of the South East Kelowna Irrigation District’s existing piping system to separate water for agricultural needs from a new system to provide the 2,200 customers with water for residential use—is set to start in the spring of 2018.

Design work is currently underway and the project is being funded, in large part, by a federal-provincial grant of $41 million received earlier this year.

Earlier this week, the city held an open house to explain the plans to affected residents in the area and the city’s Ron Westlake said an extension for completion of the work will likely be requested in order to finish up in 2020. The current grant criteria calls for the work to be complete by the spring of 2019, but Westlake said that is not likely feasible.

As part of the getting the grant, SEKID agreed to join the city’s water system and that will take place at the end of 2020.

While water rates for the system’s existing 2,200 users have not been finalized, some of those on hand at the open house expressed concern they may have to pay higher rates for water than existing city residents do.

Jo Szady said she felt that would be unfair. Szady, who was recently elected to the SEKID board but said she was speaking only for herself, said not only have farmers in the area already paid an allotment fee for agricultural water based on the size of their property, they also pay a metered fee. And, she said, with the grant covering 83 per cent of the improvement project and SEKID covering the other 17 per cent, residents should not have to pay more for water than their city-system counterparts.

The work in south-east Kelowna—considered the most urgent of all water needs in the city—will see an estimated 77 kilometres of piping installed, as well as other improvements. Residential water will come from Okanagan Lake, with agricultural water still coming from its current source, Hydraulic Creek.

For the plan to move to additional phases, the other major water suppliers in the city, Black Mountain Irrigation District, Rutland Waterworks and the Glenmore-Ellison Irrigation District will need to join in. But all three have refused to join the plan because they do not want to become part of the city’s water utility.