Update: West Kelowna now says the free water is available to all residents of the city.
Original story: Free clean, drinkable water is now available to customers of the Lakeview water system in West Kelowna. The only catch is, they have to go get it themselves.
With the water quality advisory continuing for water coming out of the Rose Valley reservoir, which feeds the Lakeview system, West Kelowna council voted Tuesday to make water available for free from the bulk filling station located at Shannon Lake and Asquith Roads.
Up to now, only contractors and some residents with a special code could get water from the station. And they had t pay for it.
But the ongoing problems with algae bloom and turbidity in the reservoir forced council to act after being told residents and business have spent thousands of dollars over the summer providing themselves with clean drinking water.
The water quality advisory—less severe than a boil water notice—advises Lakeview system customers with small children, people with weakened or compromised immune systems and the elderly to boil water coming out of their taps for at least one minute before drinking it, washing food with it or using it to brush their teeth.
The advisory only extends to customers of the Lakeview system, which serves Lakeview Heights, parts of West Kelowna Estates and Shannon Lake. (For more information about the advisory and who is affected, go to the West Kelowna website at westkelownacity.ca)
The water available at the bulk filling station is from the Glenrosa water system and is treated via the state-of-the art Powers Creek water treatment plant. That plant uses filtration, ultra-violet radiation and chlorination. The water coming out of the Rose Valley Reservoir is only treated with chlorine.
The city says anyone getting water from the bulk filling station must provide their own containers and the free access will only be available while the water quality advisory is in place. No end date has been given and council heard Tuesday the algae bloom problem could continue until well into the winter, when parts of the reservoir freeze over.
The unprecedented bloom is being blamed on unseasonably hot weather in the spring, unseasonably wet weather over the summer and recreational use in the surrounding watershed.
The presentation made to council about the problem with water in the Rose Valley Reservoir can be viewed on the recorded webcast from Tuesday’s council meeting at www.westkelownacity.ca/webcasts (Item 6: Presentation from Heather Larratt of Larratt Aquatic).
The bulk water station in Shannon Lake opened in May 2013 and was built as a means of providing contractors with an alternative to using municipal hydrants. Residents without access to a municipal water system were also able to sign up, for a fee, to obtain water.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, council also directed city staff to look into options that might speed up construction of a Rose Valley water treatment plant. It is currently scheduled for 2022.
Solutions will depend on the city receiving more than $44 million in grants from the federal and provincial governments and/or using water reserves and significant borrowing. That borrowing would be be paid back through user fees paid by Lakeview system customers.
Both options would require increases in customers’ water rates, warns the city.
The estimated cost of building the new treatment plant and connecting it to the smaller, independent water systems serving parts of West Kelowna Estates, Sunnyside and Pritchard is $54 million.