Waste water that usually ends up in the MacKay reservoir will be pumped into Okanagan Lake again this year. (City of Vernon photo)

Vernon directs reclaimed wastewater into Okanagan Lake

Reclaimed water discharged 7 km from Kin Beach after reservoir reaches capacity

Wastewater will be making its way back into Okanagan Lake.

The City of Vernon is discharging reclaimed water, starting this month, seven kilometres southwest of Kin Beach. Coming from the Vernon Water Reclamation Centre (VWRC) via a deep lake outfall, the discharge will be approximately 1.5-2 km from either shore and is 60 metres below the water surface.

All reclaimed water has been treated to protect the ecosystem within Okanagan Lake and its surrounding area, the city states.

Around 98 per cent of the water usually ends up in the MacKay Reservoir (on Commonage Road) and is used as irrigation water for local golf courses, ball diamonds, soccer pitches and agricultural land.

The rest of the reclaimed water is piped to The Rise golf course, where it is used for irrigation.

But the MacKay Reservoir is nearing maximum capacity due in part to a significant reduction in the use of water, wet weather in spring and summers, cooler temperatures, increased cloud cover, smoke from wildfires and atypical rainfalls.

“The highly-treated reclaimed water irrigation program has a long history in Vernon, and the city is proud of our ability to irrigate local agricultural and recreational lands while reusing this precious and irreplaceable resource,” said Mayor Victor Cumming. “The city is committed to continuing the spray irrigation programs for reclaimed water and is regularly looking for opportunities to expand or adjust the program to make it even better.”

While this situation requires a change in operation for the VWRC, reclaimed water discharge is not an uncommon practice in the Okanagan Valley.

Currently, communities along Okanagan Lake from Kelowna to Penticton discharge the majority of their treated reclaimed water to Okanagan Lake or adjacent watercourses every day, the city said.

In early 2020, for the first time in more than 20 years, Vernon had to temporarily redirect the discharge of treated reclaimed water into Okanagan Lake.

READ MORE: City of Vernon to flow treated sewage into Okanagan Lake

“Unfortunately, a higher than average snowpack last winter and extremely wet weather in the spring and early summer prohibited the city from operating its irrigation program to the extent anticipated,” the city said.

Once hot summer weather that is more typical for the North Okanagan began in July, the irrigation program was able to operate at full capacity. However, the level of the reservoir at the end of the allowable discharge period was not low enough to avoid another discharge this year.

The city is working with the province to determine when the discharge will end.

To learn more about the water reclamation process, visit vernon.ca/water-reclamation. A video describes the treatment process and provides an inside look at the Water Reclamation Centre. The VWRC also welcomes the opportunity to provide tours to interested members of the public, with COVID-19 safety protocols in place, when allowed under BC Public Health Orders.

READ MORE: Dust settles in Vernon


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