Water service amalgamation to be discussed

Speakers for Rutland Water Works and Black Mountain Irrigation districts to speak at water purveyor forum on April 21.

With the City of Kelowna calling for amalgamation of the five water purveyors that currently serve the city, two of those purveyors will make their positions known to Rutland residents later this month.

Garry Zarr, of the Rutland Water Works District, and Gordy Ivans, with the Black Mountain Irrigation District, are scheduled to speak April 21 at a special meeting organized by the Rutland Residents’ Association.

The meeting will take place at the Rutland Centennial Hall, starting at 7 p.m.

Rutland is the largest residential neighbourhood in the city and is generally considered to have better water quality than the other three irrigation districts.

Earlier this year, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran went public with his call for amalgamation of the Rutland Water Works, BlackMountain Irrigation District, South-East Kelowna Irrigation District and Glenmore -Ellison Irrigation District with the city’s water utility.

Basran said having just one water purveyor for the entire city makes more sense than five separate, independent utilities, as it could save money and provide a better quality, and consistent, supply of residential water for all areas.

Under the current system, water quality varies depending on the area and the time of year, especially in the spring when high spring run-off affects the water quality to varying degrees in areas of the city.

The upcoming meeting is aimed at providing Rutland and Black Mountain residents with information about a possible amalgamation of the water systems.

It will be held the same weekend as the annual Southern Interior Local Government Association’s convention in Kelowna, a gathering that this year has adopted water as its main theme.

One of the speakers at the SILGA convention will be former provincial health minister George Abbott, who has been tasked by the province to mediate a dispute between the city and the irrigation districts over settling on a terms of reference for a study to look at possible amalgamation.

In the past, the irrigation districts—independent bodies with their own boards and their own taxing authority—have been resistant to even considering amalgamating with the city’s water utility.

Basran has said that while the province has not gone so far as to order an amalgamation, it has made it clear that any funding for the water districts must come through applications made on their behalf by the city.

Meanwhile, new local MP Stephen Fuhr has lent his support to the call for amalgamation, saying the clock is ticking on the ability to secure federal infrastructure grants for local water projects and that could be speeded up by having just one water utility here.

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