Water is top priority for Kelowna city council

Quality of drinking water tops list that includes vibrant neighbourhoods and a healthy, active, safe, inclusive community.

It’s taken nine months to figure out, but Kelowna city council has come up with its top priorities the next 39 months.

And topping the list is water.

According to Mayor Colin Basran, clean and affordable drinking water is at the top of the list because in addition to the city, there are 21 public and private water utilities delivering drinking water to the Kelowna residents and the quality varies—in some cases quite dramatically.

Barsan said  while the city does not want to take over any of the water utilities, it is proposing more interconnectivity in oder to increase quality and save hundreds of millions of dollars in improvement costs that the separate utilities are facing in light of rising standards set by both the province and Interior Health.

“The city doesn’t want to take over water boards,” said Basran. “This is about providing good quality drinking water.”

He said at any given time in the city, there are boil water advisories for some water utilities and irrigation districts. He said while some utilities could hook up to each other and some could hook up with the city’s water utility, many water quality issues could be averted and costs could be kept down by interconnectivity.

But in the past, water utilities and irrigation districts have resisted calls for amalgamation,joining forces or even working together and viewed them as  threats to their their independence. Irrigation districts have their own boards, thjeir own budgets, raise their own taxation funds through inclusion on municipal  tax notices and operate independent of local government.

To look at the issue of improving overall drinking water quality in the city, the Kelowna Joint Water Committee is organizing a planning process to address the issue, said Basran.  He said the process has been mandated by the province and he hopes it will lead to improvements in the entire system across the city.

“The city wants to work with the province and irrigation districts to develop a long-term plan that leads to an integrated and resilient water system that delivers clean drinking water to all citizens at equitable rates and offers a sustainable water supply for agriculturists,” said the mayor.

While water is the top priority for the current council, it is not alone on the list.

Others include building vibrant urban centres in the city, ensuring a healthy, safe, active and inclusive community, delivering a balanced transportation network where the car is no longer king, acting as a catalyst for business and providing strong fiscal management.

“The way we work and the areas we have chosen to focus on reflect our citizens’ priorities and our commitment to build on the momentum of previous councils,” said Basran.

“It’s an exciting time for Kelowna, and council is committed to ensuring our citizens continue to enjoy a high quality of life.”

The next municipal election is slated for 2018.