By Steve Kidd/Contributor
Summerland residents have experienced drought conditions in the past, but that experience isn’t going to compare to spending a weekend without water next year.
The District of Summerland announced Friday that for three days in March 2017, water will be completely shut off. The outage is expected to begin at 7 p.m. on March 3, 2017 and end by 7 a.m. on March 6. The affected area includes all homes and businesses within the Summerland boundaries.
Summerland Mayor Peter Waterman said the district understands how hard this shutdown is going to be on residents and businesses in the community, but the shutdown is necessary to keep the basic infrastructure in place.
The maintenance required is the replacement of a pressure reducing valve in a station with a 42-inch main water line on the incoming side.
“You’ve got to do it to make sure your system is in good shape and you can deliver the product,” said Waterman. “If you don’t have water you can’t turn the taps on, you can’t irrigate the fruit trees and you can’t flush the toilets.”
Waterman described this as a proactive action, explaining that the district sees the three-day shutdown as the better alternative to the amount of damage possible if the valve should fail in service.
“If you have a 42-inch line coming through and something goes wrong, you have an awful lot of water under fairly decent pressure, you would have a pretty catastrophic event,” said Waterman. “It is better to pick your time to do something like this than to have it forced on you by circumstance.”
Christine Petkau, executive director of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce, said the shutdown is going to be hard on local businesses, adding that they will work with the District of Summerland to get information out to their members as soon as they have it.
“We are concerned about the implications of the proposed shutdown on our business members,” said Petkau. “There is no question the cost to businesses will be very significant.”
Petkau said the Summerland Seniors Village may have particular issues.
“They are caring for people that can’t care for themselves, how do they do that without water?” asked Petkau.
Summerland resident Connie Denesiuk also mentioned the seniors’ home as a particular concern. Denesiuk and her husband have already made plans to vacate their home that weekend, but she is concerned for the people who don’t have that option, and the businesses they rely on.
“I think the community is going to expect answers in how the community is going to help people in dealing with this,” said Denesiuk. “I want to learn more and I am not jumping to any conclusions but what is running through my mind is all the issues that it will cause.
“Maybe they (the district) have a plan, maybe they are bringing potable water to those facilities. I would be interested in how they plan to mitigate the fallout from cutting off the water.”
Waterman said the district is taking all these issues into consideration.
“We will be looking at those options as we go forward. There will be certain institutions that we may have to make more thorough preparations to deal with their needs,” said Waterman. “We will be looking at that over the course of the winter in making sure we are fully prepared to deal with things over that period.”
Waterman said it was difficult to pick a date for a project of this magnitude, with such a large impact on the businesses and residents of Summerland.
“Effort was made to choose a date that was in a low season for water use and which did not conflict with any scheduled large community events,” said Waterman. “We did pick, after talking to businesses and several other people, what we considered to be the lowest use period we could find, without being in the middle of winter and without being at the startup of spring irrigation for orchardists and vineyard owners.”
Tom Matthews of the Summerland Waterfront Resort said he was consulted about two months ago on the proposed water outage.
“That was appreciated,” said Matthews, who said the process of getting to this point was well handled.
But when he learned that the three-day shutdown was going to happen, he began to think about the consequences again.
“It’s going to be difficult to run a hotel without any water for three days,” he said. Because the resort uses geothermal, no water would also mean no heat and no water.
“If we end up having to close the resort, we are probably looking in the order of $10,000 of lost business in those three days,” said Matthews, adding closing the resort would be further complicated by the several monthly tenants through the winter, and a number of owners who live year round.
“Is there not another way to do this? Over five or six days, there is no water between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.? Life can go on, you can work with that,” said Matthews, noting that closing for three days would also mean no work for about 25 resort employees.
Waterman said the district will do all it can to provide timely information to residents in the run up to the March shutdown. Public information sessions to provide more information about the water outage are planned, where suggestions and tips will be offered regarding how to prepare for the outage.
“We don’t want anyone to be surprised. We are going to have lots of information going out and we will make sure everyone is aware of what is going on so they are ready for that weekend of water stoppage.” said Waterman.
Information will also be made available on the District of Summerland website, Summerland’s Facebook page and through the monthly newsletter.
Any questions or inquiries can be directed to Devon van der Meulen, Manager of Utilities at 250-494-0431.