KELOWNA - Kelowna’s four major irrigation districts say they are well into the plan to improve water quality and eventually connect their systems and they’re not quite sure why city council wants to change the plan.
Last week, mayor and council announced water quality as their top priority and said they would push to speed up completion of the Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan, adopted by the city and the irrigation districts in 2012.
“All five water purveyors recognize the need for water quality improvements,” Kelowna Joint Water Committee chair Gord Ivans says.
The committee was formed expressly for cooperation between the city and Black Mountain, Glenmore Ellison, South East Kelowna and Rutland Waterworks irrigation districts on long-range project and policy planning.
“This plan has been endorsed by the the province of B.C. as well as Interior Health," Ivans says. "The purpose of the plan was to give clear direction on how to best deal with the water issues in Kelowna, provide cost estimates and prioritize projects.”
Ivans and the other water committee directors say the push by council is premature because the results of a value planning exercise required by the province for infrastructure grant approval, are not yet available.
Independent water engineers from outside B.C. will review the water supply plan which includes over $360 million worth of infrastructure projects and upgrades. That review is expected before the end of the year.
In an interview last week, Basran said the city's own review shows the plan could be completed for half the cost and integration of the five water networks could be completed much sooner than 2025.
“While the notion of grand interconnected utility may sound appealing, there are realistic technical challenges,” Ivans says. “With different sources and water quality within the five districts, would those in a district with better water quality be willing to sacrifice their good water from a utility for lesser quality water?”
The City of Kelowna holds some leverage as it must sign off on approval for all water projects within its boundaries before the province will fork over the cash.
Ivans says all five utilities agreed in the water supply plan to speak with one voice, which is why the irrigation districts are puzzled by the timing of council's announcement.
“The anticipation is that all members of the joint water committee will honour the commitments they made… and to set aside political aspirations on this issue and work with the districts to see true change and improvements to water quality for the residents of Kelowna,” he says.
Kelowna’s four irrigation districts supply about 50 per cent of Kelowna’s population, but about 70 per cent of the total water volume used. They each have their own infrastructure, tax and customer base as well as administrative and governance structure.
Most were formed in the early part of the 20th century to supply the emerging fruit growing industry with irrigation, but have since evolved to serve residential customers.
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