Waters: Irrigation districts run out of wiggle room

Provincial support for new city water plan appears to spell the end for IDs in Kelowna.

The writing is on the wall for irrigation districts in Kelowna. And it’s the province that’s doing the writing.

With the current rules in place to get provincial water infrastructure grants—municipalities must apply on behalf of irrigation districts and to be successful, irrigation districts must fold into municipal water systems—it’s clear Victoria shares Kelowna city hall’s belief a single, integrated, city-wide water system is the way to go.

And that belief appears to come from the top.

In an exclusive interview with Premier Christy Clark Friday, just minutes after she met with Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran to discuss the city’s new water supply plan, Clark made it clear the new plan is what will be followed, regardless of the participation of the three holdout irrigation districts, Rutland Water Works, the Glemore-Ellison Improvement District and the Black Mountain Irrigation District.

“This is the plan. We won’t be reworking it,” said Clark. But she added a conciliatory note, saying she hopes the three will join the plan once they see what she believes will be the benefits to the entire city.

Clark’s comments are a clear victory for Kelowna and Mayor Colin Basran, who has made water the city’s top priority and has been calling for a single, integrated water system for the the entire city.

But, as was made clear Monday by the lead consultant who helped put the new plan together, a city-wide plan requires all the providers to participate in order to make it work. While Don Stafford was quick to point out that the new plan is a technical document that did not address the issue of governance, it does layout how a city-wide plan should work.

So, with the province’s support and the hammer of forced absorption of the irrigation districts into the city’s water utility system if needed, it appears there’s little option but for the holdouts to capitulate or have their hands forced.

The irrigation districts appeared to have gambled the province would not enforce it’s requirement that to get provincial money they have to join the municipal system. And they lost. Walking way from the value planning study may have been an attempt to see if the province was bluffing. But Victoria didn’t blink.

With the plan addressing both the way the city will provide domestic and agricultural water needs, as well as fire flow requirements, it seems to have all the bases covered. It’s hard to see where the irrigation districts go from here.

The South-East Kelowna Irrigation District’s needs, agreed by all to be the highest priority, will be met by the city applying for a $43.9 million grant on its behalf and it appears to be willing to join the city’s system to get that money.

So, it’s now when, not if, the other three water providers also get on board—or are forced on board—and move Kelowna from a city with five separate water providers to a city with just one.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Wildfire shuts down Highway 97 between Peachland and Summerland

Motorists may use an alternate route via Highway 97C, Highway 5A and Highway 3

Complete list of B.C. Interior wildfire coverage

Up-to-date information on blazes happening the Kamloops Wildfire Centre

Blasting set to start in West Kelowna’s Tallus Ridge neighbourhood

Blasting being done to prepare for 10th and 11th phases of development

Mill Creek is open once again

The Kelowna park has been closed due to flooding in 2017

911 jams causes panic among residents

RDOS chair received several calls and texts from panicked residents unable to get through to 911

Neighbours jump into action after grass fire ignites 10 feet from Kelowna home

Multiple fire halls responded to a grass fire on the 800 block of Mount Royal Drive.

Installers to battle Team B.C.

Exhibition men’s fastball Saturday in Vernon

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

B.C. poet shines a bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo July 21.

Ontario police say attack on Muslim man was motivated by hate

Two men, aged 27 and 19, have been charged with assault in the incident

Canadian Tire delivers toys to ease kids’ street play pain in B.C. neighbourhood

It’s like Christmas for 11 kids who are supposed to be confined to their yards by strata bylaw

Four wild fires still burning in South Okanagan

One fire was extinguished and another reported after lightning came through area

City orders largest Kinder Morgan protest camp to leave

Residents of Camp Cloud near the Trans Mountain work site have 72 hours to leave

Most Read