Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi at the ground-breaking ceremony for the first phase of work to join the South East Kelowna Irrigation District’s water system with the city’s water utility Wednesday. —Image: Alistair Waters/Capital News

Work to join Kelowna water systems underway

First phase of work to link the city and South East Kelowna Irrigation District’s systems starts

The long-awaited project to amalgamate the water system that serves southeast Kelowna with the City of Kelowna’s water utility has finally broken ground.

Thanks to a $44 million grant from the federal and provincial government, awarded in 2017, work is underway after a year of planning and preparation.

According to Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, the three-year construction project marks the first step in ensuring all city residents have safe, clean drinking water.

“It’s not every day that we receive $44 million from our government partners,” Basran said at a ceremony to mark the start of the construction work Wednesday in southeast Kelowna.

“I want to thank the federal and provincial governments for acknowledging this essential need in Kelowna and for committing to help ensure our citizens have safe clean drinking water for a rapidly growing population and a resilient and redundant water supply system to meet all our water needs in the face of climate change.”

The city wants the three other irrigation districts that provide Kelowna residents with water—Rutland Waterworks, the Black Mountain Irrigation District and the Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District—to also join the city’s system. But to date, all three have refused.

The southeast Kelowna work was prompted by the urgent need to improve the SEKID system and the willingness of the irrigation district to join the city’s water utility.

The project carries a price tag of $85 million.

Phase one of the multi-year project involves separating agricultural and domestic water systems in southeast Kelowna and providing a sustainable water supply for agriculture in the South Mission area.

The federal government is providing $26,450,000 and the provincial government is providing $17,457,000 for the project through the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund. The City of Kelowna is providing $19,100,000.

Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, who was on hand for the groundbreaking Wednesday, said he was pleased to celebrate the start of work, a major initiative to improve water services and water quality for Kelowna residents.

“The government of Canada recognizes that investing in water infrastructure not only helps protect public health, but also strengthens the foundation for economic prosperity and the growth of the middle class,” he said.

Selina Robinson, B.C.’s minister of municipal affairs—who could not be at the event but sent a note—called the project a “huge step forward” for the city.

The improvements will eventually provide better quality drinking water for an estimated 2,000 homes in southeast Kelowna.

In addition to the money for phase one of the work, the province has also committed $12 million for the second phase of the project.

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