Kelowna’s integration of water systems cost millions more than planned

City staff say the $63.7 million project to add SEKID will now cost $88 million.

Kelowna’s move to integrate the South East Kelowna Irrigation System with its own domestic water system will cost $22 million more than anticipated.

The budget estimate—more a third larger than previously announced—will drive the bill for marrying the two water systems up to $88 million from $63.7 million.

On Monday, city staff will ask council to approve a new financing plan to cover the extra cost.

According to the city’s point man on the project, senior engineer Ron Westlake, Kelowna officials knew the $63.7 million figure would rise late last year when they discovered already planned improvements to the SEKID system would cost more than originally planned.

The amount rose even more this year because contractors are very busy after the federal government handed out millions in infrastructure grants to municipalities across B.C., prompting heavy demand for their services from cities and towns looking to have their projects meet deadlines imposed for use of the grant money from Ottawa.

Kelowna received a $44 million grant for the integration project in March 2017.

The city wants the three other water purveyors in Kelowna—Rutland Waterworks, Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District and Black Mountain Irrigation—to also join its system so there will be just one water utility in the city. But so far, only SEKID has taken Kelowna up on the offer–and that was in order to get the federal grant money to improve its system.

An update on the water integration project sent out to south-east Kelowna residents recently says in addition to the high volume of infrastructure projects across the province, an increase in the service demand requirement in some areas of south-east Kelowna is also driving up the cost.

The city plans to cover a large increase in the portion of the project cost SEKID ratepayers will be responsible for and collect it back through water rates.

Because of the increase in cost, parts of the project originally slated to proceed before the grant deadline hits at the end of 2019 will be put off, said Westlake. That includes two reservoirs and a trunk main.

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