If houses instead of trees were grown in South East Kelowna, it wouldn’t cost individuals so much to pay for the $22.3 million required to improve water quality in that irrigation district.
However, much of the district is composed of farms, vineyards and orchards which are part of the Agricultural Land Reserve, so expensive infrastructure has to be built for a long distance between users.
SEKID manager Toby Pike notes that while 22 per cent of the city’s land mass is in the irrigation district, only five per cent of the city’s population lives there, and they will have to pay for twinning the distribution system in order for clear well water to be delivered to homes, while not-so-clear creek water continues to service agricultural connections.
The board of directors for SEKID considered a report about five years ago that detailed the options for improving drinking water quality to the level being required by Interior Health, and agreed with Associated Engineering’s recommendation of this one, explained Pike.
To build an adequate treatment plant to service water for the whole district to bring the water quality up to IH standards would have cost $55 million then, and it’s expected it would cost much more now.
“There’s no doubt it will be expensive,” conceded Pike.
The board decided to take the alternate approval process for taxpayer approval of the borrowing required, so if fewer than 10 per cent of ratepayers have registered an objection to the proposal by Oct. 25, it will go ahead.
Three open houses are planned to discuss details of the project: Tues., Sept. 25, 4-9 p.m. at the East Kelowna Community Hall; Mon., Oct. 1, 2-9 p.m. at the Gallagher’s Canyon Club House; and Wed., Oct. 3, 4-9 p.m. at the Kelowna and District Fish and Game Club.
The plan is to phase in the improvements, and the cost of them, over 10 years, and charge rates that are based on the level of use. Meters will be installed on domestic connections, as they are already on agriculture connections.
Just as agriculture users who waste water now pay higher rates, so too will domestic water wasters pay more under the new rate system, noted Pike.
Domestic users will face increases of 10 per cent a year over the 10-year period, plus a monthly levy of $42. The annual water tax of $82 will increase by two per cent a year for both domestic and agricultural users.
By 2022, based on current rates, it’s estimated that most domestic users would be paying about $1,500 a year, plus that annual water tax.
The monthly fee won’t be instituted until the system is up and running.
First to notice the difference will be those in more-densely populated areas such as Gallagher’s Canyon, McCulloch Road and Hall Road.
Pike said the district continues to lobby the provincial government for support for the project.