To the editor:
Re: Proposed amalgamation of Kelowna’s water districts.
So MP Stephen Fuhr has joined our mayor (Kelowna mayor Colin Basran) in calling for the amalgamation of the five major water systems serving the Kelowna area, apparently to qualify for federal money.
While amalgamation has a certain appeal, I would urge caution by responsible authorities including Fuhr and Basran. Both express concern for urban water users but ignore legitimate interest of farmers.
Our water systems were initially created by and for our important farming industry. Their historic legal water rights supported investments in dams and distribution systems now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The record shows that, despite their large water consumption, farmers collectively have proven more responsible in husbanding our precious water resources than urbanites and city parks.
Irrigation systems have been adapted to also serve our growing urban needs and it is this use that has led to demands for huge new investments in water treatment not required by farmers, so why should agriculture pay for treatment it does not need?
Amalgamation threatens confiscation of farmers, control over water rights, adding to their loss of rights under the ALR, further undermining an already endangered agricultural industry that remains the foundation of our economy and attraction to tourists.
Do we hear Mr. Fuhr and Mr. Basran offering compensation to our farmers?
We can already visualize a large new water bureaucracy with dozens of high salaried officials a la Interior Health, and no doubt a new highrise office building somewhere downtown. This will guarantee the support of both our bureaucrats and development community.
But instead of efficient and economic management by the water districts, we can guarantee that amalgamation will multiply operating costs to the detriment of both farmers and general taxpayers.
Is there a solution? Perhaps it is the physical separation of the domestic and agricultural water systems that would allow farmers to retain control of their vital irrigation needs and leave urbanites to fight the bureaucracy over water quality, costs and restrictions.
I would like to see a careful analysis of the costs and benefits of this alternative, which may prove to be more practical than at first glance.
Glen Wittur, Kelowna