Water-parched residents of Upper Glenrosa are being offered some relief by the District of West Kelowna in the form of a bulk water dispensing system.
The system, which would greatly reduce the distance many of the residents currently have to travel to fill tanks and truck water back to their homes, would be installed by the district and paid for by residents, if they approve the plan.
Many homes south of Glenrosa Road above Gates Road have seen their water supplies dry up in recent years. A recent survey for the district showed at least 28 groundwater wells are not meeting residential needs.
The survey also found 16 other wells have water quality issues while 27 homeowners consider the water supply issue serious or very serious.
There are approximately 167 properties identified in the area.
West Kelowna council, after hearing from the Glenrosa Residents Association on behalf of the affected residents, agreed to initiate a process to have the residents petition the district to determine support for the bulk water dispenser, which would cost $72,000 to buy and install.
Water would be charged for using a set rate, similar to the new consumption charge to be paid by property owners on the municipal water system who have meters in their homes.
This is seen as a short- to medium-term measure, but the long-term alternative of extending the water system into the rural area of Glenrosa will cost $15 million.
And according to Mayor Doug Findlater, that’s a bill the municipality can’t currently afford.
The offer of the bulk water dispensing station came as good news to several residents who showed up to hear council deliberate on the issue earlier this week.
Lorne Martin, who has lived in the area for 35 years, said he had a good water supply up to two years ago when the aquifer his well uses dropped in level.
Faced with spending another $15,000 to drill a deeper well—and possibility that he might not reach water—he has been trucking in water.
He has a 200-gallon tank mounted on the back of his truck that he uses.
He said while he welcomes the bulk dispenser, he feels council members don’t realize what it’s like for him and his neighbours. “We are desperate right now,” he said.
Martin said when he originally moved to the area, he was told water mains would be extended there one day. But that day never came. Back then, the entire area was in the regional district.
He said he and others are concerned about having to pay for the water system, a bill that could see each property have to pay $436.
In preparation for deciding on the bulk water dispenser, district officials met with residents and circulated the survey.
Just under half the affected property owners responded and 40 per cent of them said there were issues with their water supply.
Forty-three per cent said the water issue needs to be addressed in the next five years.
But 62 per cent of the respondents said they opposed extending water service to the area, something West Kelowna director of engineering Gary O’Rourke said could be the result of the potential high cost of the work.
But while 62 per cent of respondents were opposed to extending water service to the area—something the mayor said could attract more development, something residents don’t want to see in the area— 69 per cent opposed the bulk water dispenser.
So it remains to be seen what kind of support the dispenser will have now that council has given the green light to residents petitioning for it as a local service project.