Mediator to intervene in dispute between irrigation districts and City of Kelowna over drinking water plan

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CENTRAL OKANAGAN - The provincial government is stepping into the dispute between city council and the four irrigation districts that supply domestic water in Kelowna.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran confirms the province, through the Ministry of Communities, has provided a mediator to help get a mandatory review of the Kelowna integrated water supply plan back on track. 

It calls for some $380 million worth of water infrastructure projects to be built by 2025, with the ultimate goal of joining up the five major water utilities within the city’s boundaries that supply domestic drinking water.

Basran says council believes the projects could be done for about half the cost in about half the time and that the irrigation districts have been dragging their feet on connecting their systems. The irrigation districts have said they feel Basran is playing politics with Kelowna's water supply.

The city does hold some veto power in that it must sign off on all water infrastructure project grant applications made to the province from the irrgation districts, a power it has threatened to use if changes aren’t made to the water supply plan.

As a sign of how far apart the two sides are, the mediator is needed just to reach an agreement on the terms of reference for the review, the first step in the process.

Basran says he believes the mediation effort, regardless of the outcome, will help the city achieve its top strategic priority which he says is 'safe, clean drinking water to all the residents of our community.'

Kelowna’s water supply comes from 21 private and public water utilities, including the four big irrigation districts and the largest provider, the City of Kelowa water utility.

The irrigation districts — Black Mountain, Glenmore Ellison, South East Kelowna and Rutland Water Works — ostensibly work with the city through the Kelowna Joint Water Committee.

The mayor could only say the mediation process is 'imminent' and could not provide any other details.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at jmcdonald@infonews.ca or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.


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