Recommendations in Regional District drinking water audit could prove expensive | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Recommendations in Regional District drinking water audit could prove expensive

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June 22, 2017 - 6:30 AM

PENTICTON - The recommendations in a report from an audit of the Regional District’s drinking water systems was a “shot across the bow,” according to the chief administrative officer.

CAO Bill Newell said the report from the Auditor General for Local Government of British Columbia applauds the District for the current monitoring of its three water systems well, but isn't doing as good a job of looking into the future and providing a forward direction.

The report was made public at the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen Environment and Infrastructure Committee meeting on June 15 after the directors had a look at the document en camera beforehand.

“We’re providing the appropriate amount of water, in a potable state, and it’s suitable for our customers. As the purveyor of an essential service we’re doing it well, and according to provincial standards,” Newell said.

But Newell said in order for the District to be a high performing water purveyor there was a lot of work ahead, adding he expected the board was going to hear more about the district’s water system's policies in the coming months.

Newell said the report’s findings indicated the District wasn’t following it’s own philosophy when it came to things such as water metering and how it funds system upgrades.

“They say we’re not following our own guidelines, and are probably correct. We said in our regional growth strategy we were going to meter our households, and we’re not doing that,” Newell said.

He also noted the Regional District is opposed to building reserves, and instead wants those using the services to pay for them.

“We don’t like reserves, they are saying (in the report) you should be collecting for costs to upgrade these services for the future,” he said.

Newell said the Regional District acquired two water systems last year, and expect to acquire two more in 2017. He said a lot of private and quasi-public purveyors want out because the people who run them are getting old, or because the infrastructure is failing and they aren’t eligible for grants anymore.

He said the District needed to upgrade its water system acquisition policy, in addition to creating a water conservation bylaw, build an asset management plan, provide flood and drought analysis and create a cross-connection bylaw.

The auditor's report also recommended back-up power be provided for all the District’s water systems.

Newell expressed the need for the District to organize a meeting of all water purveyors to come up with an overall plan on how they are going to support each other.

“There’s lots of work in the recommendations of the auditor general’s report. We’ll be bringing those back piecemeal for the board’s consideration,” Newell said.

“One of the implications for doing all this is higher costs for water,” committee chair Tom Siddon said.

“The argument is if we don’t charge what it’s worth, we’re wasting water,” he said, adding the report’s recommendations represented a good long term cause, but the recommendations were something the District couldn’t necessarily do all at once.

You can check out the Auditor General for Local Government of British Columbia's report entitled Ensuring Clean Drink Water here.

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