Kelowna's irrigation districts keep calm and carry on - InfoNews

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Kelowna's irrigation districts keep calm and carry on

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April 12, 2016 - 9:00 PM


CENTRAL OKANAGAN - You wouldn’t know the Glenmore Ellison Improvement District is facing an existential crisis from the agenda for its annual general meeting scheduled for tomorrow — it makes no specific mention of the government-ordered mediation effort currently underway which will decide the organization's future.

“I’m sure it will come up under general discussion,” chairman Steven Bonn says. “To be honest, our annual general meeting really focuses on how many water main breaks there were, that sort of thing, operations and finance.”

Bonn has been chairman for the last year, with much of that time spent defending the district’s very existence in the face of demands by the city for Glemmore Ellison, along with Black Mountain, South East Kelowna and Rutland Water Works, to merge operations with the city-run water utility.

Kelowna signed the integrated water supply agreement with the irrigation districts in 2012 but now the city wants to tear up the agreement and accelerate their integration and take control of governance.

Government-appointed mediators George Abbott and Chris Trumpy met with Bonn and other irrigation district representatives earlier today, April 12, for what Bonn termed the 'continued developement' of the mediation plan.

But until it’s complete Bonn says his district, and the others, have no choice but to provide domestic water delivery until someone tells them otherwise.

“We have a responsibility to our ratepayers to provide water, it’s as simple as that,” Bonn says.

Still, Bonn says the organization is not blind to what could come from the mediation.

“We’re not naive to the fact there will be some change to the system,” he says. “The issue for us is water quality. You shouldn’t have to have a second-class system, depending on where you live in Kelowna, that’s the crux of this.”

Domestic water delivery within Kelowna is handled by the city water utilty and the four irrigation districts. Each irrigation district has its own adminstration and infrastructure and is a form of local government with its own elected board of trustees.

The irrigation districts in the Okanagan began in the early 20th century as a way to ensure a reliable water supply for orchards. They have since largely evolved into domestic water suppliers, serving both residential and agricultural customers.

Last year, Kelowna council, lead by Mayor Colin Basran, declared clean drinking water as a priority and demanded the Kelowna Joint Water Committee accelerate its integrated water supply plan.

It calls for integration of the five systems along with an eventual change in governance over a 15-year period.

Some $360 million worth of water infrastructure projects are on the books over that period, but Basran says the city believes integration could be achieved in about half the time for half the price.

Find past stories on Kelowna irrigation districts here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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