Local water utilities are hopeful now that all five Kelowna water utilities have endorsed a priority plan for the infrastructure required to improve water quality, that cabinet minister Bill Bennett will agree his conditions have been met for eligibility for financial assistance.
As minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, the Kootenay MLA is in a position to waive the requirement that only local governments, not local improvement districts may apply for infrastructure grants from senior governments.
Last fall, he agreed that if all five of Kelowna’s major utilities agreed on the priority of all projects required to bring water quality to Interior Health standards, he would not let the government’s previous policy restricting grants to municipalities and regional districts prevent grants from being awarded to those projects.
All five utilities, as part of the Kelowna Joint Water Committee, were already in the process of putting together plans for infrastructure improvements to meet IHA’s requirements, and this week Kelowna Council became the last body to endorse that implementation plan.
Of the $383 million for 48 projects in total, $8.3 million would be the cost of the first phase—work which would take place in the South East Kelowna Irrigation District, developing a new source of water.
SEKID manager Toby Pike said he’s hopeful the minister will accept this plan and its priorities as meeting his request, before the election, in case the same minister is not in that portfolio following the vote.
“We all agreed on the plan, and the priorities in it. Three ultra-violet projects are next in line (for three other utilities), to meet the dual-treatment requirements of Interior Health,” noted Pike.
The other utilities included in the plan are the City of Kelowna, Black Mountain Irrigation District, Glenmore-Elllison Improvement District and Rutland Waterworks.
Lower on the priority list will be twinning projects, separating agricultural and domestic water connections, so that irrigation water is not treated to as high a standard as domestic, saving money.
The whole process has involved “much navel-gazing” on the part of all the water utilities in Kelowna over the past 15 years or so, commented Pike.
The plan is not the only common ground the committee has found. They are also all on the same page with drought management planning and other initiatives.
Gord Ivans, chair of the KJWC said it was an “innovative and cooperative process to ensure potential local water improvement projects are prioritized to receive funding grants, standardize service levels between water purveyors and facilitate greater integration of local water systems.”
It’s the first agreement of its kinds among B.C. water systems, noted Kelowna city manager Ron Mattiussi. “The objective is to provide the best overall water quality solutions for all Kelowna residents.