Letter: Integration of water supply would ease costs

"…the City of Kelowna has a responsibility to all citizens, regardless of where they get their water…" Mayor Basran.

To the editor:

The letter from David Stirling, (Mayor Challenged on Water Quality, Sept. 18 Kelowna Capital News) former chair of the Kelowna Joint Water Committee, exemplifies the reason council is pushing for progress on clean drinking water and a sustainable, integrated water supply system.

While the letter states “the long-term plan the mayor wants to develop already exists,”  it neglects to mention that the 2012 Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan, which would cost all local ratepayers $360-million, also came with a provincial requirement for a Value Planning exercise to be undertaken before any grant money is committed to the plan.

We applaud the Province for its requirement that the Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan be vetted through a Value Planning Exercise. This is needed, in the words of Minister Coralee Oakes, “to examine the merits of the current plan, explore the best lowest-cost options for the entire plan and include evaluation of whether multiple water system purveyors is a viable and effective solution for an integrated, redundant system.”

As far back as May of 2012, the Province made it quite clear that a Value Planning process would be  needed before grants could be applied for. This was reiterated to the KJWC as recently as Feb. 26 in a letter from Minister Oakes.

It is the lack of acknowledgment of this long standing provincial requirement that is holding up grants—not the City of Kelowna.

The City of Kelowna supports the Value Planning exercise because we believe that, if integration of the various water providers is considered sooner than called for in the original plan, integration would potentially save ratepayers approximately $180 million.

This is based on information received in 2014, when the city commissioned its own broad level due diligence study of the current plan.  The “best lowest-cost option” would result in significant savings that could leave money available for other priorities, such as expanding our balanced transportation network or community safety initiatives.

A further review to maximize the value of an integrated, resilient, reliable and sustainable water supply system will be money well spent. The irrigation districts’ relatively small ratepayer base makes sustainability of individual systems a challenge in the face of climate change and changing regulations.

Due in part to its large ratepayer base, the City of Kelowna has continually improved its water system without the assistance of funding from senior levels of government. This kind of robust system throughout Kelowna would ensure back-ups are in place if one source experiences supply or quality issues.

We understand the idea of integrating water systems can be a difficult topic for independent water districts. However, the City of Kelowna has a responsibility to all citizens, regardless of where they get their water, and will continue to push for clean drinking water and a robust, sustainable system for the future.

Colin Basran,

Mayor, City of Kelowna