Two-thirds of Kelowna candidates support water system integration - InfoNews

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Two-thirds of Kelowna candidates support water system integration

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October 14, 2018 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA - The vast majority of Kelowna City Council candidates support the further integration of water suppliers.

The city recently amalgamated with the South East Kelowna Irrigation District but still only provides water to 50 per cent of residents.

Irrigation districts in Glenmore-Ellison, Black Mountain and Rutland serve most of the rest of Kelowna (there are 26 small systems supplying about 1,300 residents).

The city wants to bring all water under its umbrella and integrate all the systems.

We asked candidates: Do you support the city’s efforts to bring water quality and use under the management of City of Kelowna or should the other major irrigation districts be left to operate independently?

Ten of the 15 respondents clearly supported integration. The other four did not actually oppose consolidation but called for more negotiation.

Here are key points from their answers, and at the bottom of the page you can see their full response.

Those supporting integration are:

Charlie Hodge
Charlie Hodge
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Facebook

Charlie Hodge: It is imperative that we continue to move forward with amalgamating our water systems.

Colin Basran (for mayor): It doesn’t make financial sense for each irrigation district to build infrastructure that could be consolidated to the benefit of all residents.  So, running separate irrigation districts … is a poor path to choose for taxpayers.

Wayne Carson:If senior levels of government are to provide funding in the manner of grants, we will have no choice but to meet their expectations.

Ryan Donn: I fully agree with the integration of our water system.

Gail Given:The most resilient, cost effective, safe and redundant system of water delivery is one that is completely integrated and interconnected. 

Gordon Lovegrove: I think it was appropriate that Kelowna consolidate disparate water authorities and sources. A centralized control model makes sense.

Mo Rajabally: I strongly believe the City should not give carte blanche to irrigation districts.

Dustin Sargent: I think clean water under consistent management is a good thing for the city.

Brad Sieben: I don't see a reason to have separate utilities in the future.

Mohini Singh: We must have clean drinking water available to all neighbourhoods. If an irrigation district can’t meet that requirement then yes, … bring that infrastructure under city operation.
 

NOT SO SURE:

Tom Dyas (for mayor):From my recent discussions with the water boards, they are very reasonable people … and possess incredible wisdom regarding the water systems in their area. We are all committed to creating a city-wide system … to provide our entire community clean, safe drinking water at the best, lowest-cost solution.

Graeme James:  I do not agree with the present Council’s heavy-handed approach to water quality. I believe the City should support all applications for funding for water improvement to higher levels of government.

Craig Hostland: I will work towards the highest level of water quality in the most cost effective manner. This last water district purchase appears to be a financial blunder in the short term.

Luke Stack: At the end of the day, it will be a negotiation between the existing organizations.

Loyal Wooldridge: Many irrigation districts … simply don’t have the resources to upgrade their systems to the degree that is required. Any action that works to minimize the financial burden on a small number of residents while increasing their access to essential services like drinking water is a step in the right direction. 

These candidates did not respond.
Lindsay Bell
Kevin Bond
Mark Boyer
Greg Dahms
Maxine DeHart
Bobby Kennedy
Amarjit Singh Lalli
Jeff Piattelli
Bob Schewe

Full Responses
Colin Basran:The City’s new integrated water plan has been endorsed unanimously by City Council, two provincial governments (past and current) and the federal government. We need a system that is resilient in the face of climate change and connects the multiple sources of water to provide continuity of service in the case of an emergency. As safety requirements to provide clean and safe drinking water become more stringent, it doesn’t make financial sense for each irrigation district to build infrastructure that could be consolidated to the benefit of all residents.  So, running separate irrigation districts in a progressive and fiscally responsible community is a poor path to choose for taxpayers and community members.
Specifically, by creating one integrated plan, we’ve been able to secure $56 million in grants to see safe and clean drinking water delivered first to the citizens of SEKID and to ensure delivery of a sustainable water supply for agriculture in the South Mission. This will benefit 2,000 households and meet Interior Health’s 2025 clean drinking water mandate in South East Kelowna almost 10 years earlier than planned.  The Provincial and Federal Government supports the 2017 Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan as the way forward and provided significant funding for this, which again directly benefits SEKID ratepayers. It’s also a long-standing provincial government policy that irrigation districts requiring senior government funding must integrate with the municipality.
This plan is a win for generations to come. We’ve received support from local businesses, associations and institutions for Council’s leadership role in local water issues including endorsements from the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce. Bringing this plan together will make our water system stronger, more cost-effective for today and for our future needs tomorrow!

Wayne Carson: Provincial and Federal Governments seem determined to bring water under one provider and set of health standards.  If senior levels of government are to provide funding in the manner of grants we will have no choice but to meet their expectations.  This type of infrastructure work is very costly and these grants are necessary to  take the burden off of the city taxpayers.

Ryan Donn: Most don't know any of the names of their water providers board members. Most don't know that some have it set up that only 10 families even have the option of joining those boards in one of those districts. It was the wildest political fight behind the scenes on this one. While I didn't always agree on the style of how it was said or communicated I fully agree with the integration of our water system. An integrated and connected water system provides many fail-safe options and ensures that our citizens have redundancy built into our water supply. Our water from the tap should be drinkable and clean.

Tom Dyas: The Kelowna Joint Water Committee is the coordinating organization for the five large water utilities that were operating in Kelowna (City of Kelowna, BMID, Rutland Waterworks, GEID and SEKID).
All five utilities previously completed a comprehensive water plan, which was developed over a two-year period of extensive consultation and cooperation with all partners. The plan was required by the provincial government in order that funding from senior levels of government could be obtained for water quality improvements. In 2012, the City Council implemented the plan on behalf of the City. Upon being elected in 2014, Mayor Basran, did a complete U-turn and threw out the plan we had been involved in creating years prior.
If I had been the Mayor of Kelowna during the previous water board negotiations, I would have worked in collaboration and in a consultative manner with the water districts. From my recent discussions with the water boards, they are very reasonable people who are passionate about their community and possess incredible wisdom regarding the water systems in their area.
We are all committed to creating a city-wide system that meets or exceeds Interior Health Authority guidelines to provide our entire community clean, safe drinking water at the best, lowest-cost solution.

Gail Given: The most resilient, cost effective, safe and redundant system of water delivery is one that is completely integrated and interconnected.  This is a long-term goal and provides the best service to our citizens as a whole.  Historically, for the most part, irrigation districts were developed to deliver water to agricultural users versus municipal users.

Charlie Hodge: It is imperative that we continue to move forward with amalgamating our water systems. This is not a game.

Craig Hostland: I accept a common sense highest value approach, which almost always benefits from large scale applications. First and foremost is public safety, though. If a water system does not conform with the latest Government of Canada water quality guidelines, then the system must be overhauled. Given that City of Kelowna water is now among the most stringently safe water supplies for the area, it would be considered in any water improvement district under review or upgrade. There are various water sources for the valley, some less stringent or of lower quality than Kelowna’s water; I will work towards the highest level of water quality in the most cost-effective manner. BUT Kelowna rate payers should never subsidize outlying water service areas without a purposeful reason. This last water district purchase appears to be a financial blunder in the short term.

Graeme James: Having been on the Joint Water Committee during my previous term on Council I can say that we had a very good working relationship with all of the water districts. I do not agree with the present Council’s heavy-handed approach to water quality. I believe the City should support all applications for funding for water improvement to higher levels of government for the simple fact that we all deserve clean, safe drinking water at the lowest cost possible. As a GEID water-user I can say that I have the cleanest, safest drinking water in Kelowna at a reasonable cost. I believe that we get better, more prompt support from our water district than we would get from a large, City-owned water utility.
The one-week session that the City used for planning the long-term strategy for the City’s water was extremely poorly done. An American consulting company with absolutely no background knowledge of Kelowna’s water districts was hired for this session and I don’t believe the resulting recommendations are in the best interests of Kelowna’s citizens.

Gordon Lovegrove: I think it was appropriate that Kelowna consolidate disparate water authorities and sources.  I understand that in growing seasons over 70% of water is used for irrigation.  Kelowna resident population continues to grow, along with water demand, so protection of quality and supply is critical, along with coordinated conservation efforts.  We are a destination city and growing, with big city problems, and its forward-thinking to transition to modern waterworks engineering and management models and technology to make the most efficient use of a finite supply.  Moreover, climate change is changing the hydrology of our watershed – less snow packs, more frequent torrential rains – so our watershed water models and forecasts need to be updated to ensure water security for our future generations.  Water is life, our Okanagan Valley has a finite carrying capacity, and that will shrink if we don’t manage this watershed prudently with respect for its carrying capacity, our neighbors and our farmers.  Therefore, a centralized control model makes sense, both from water quality engineering and supply management perspectives. Last, Dr Anna Warwick-Sears and her team have done a wonderful job developing a Watershed strategy and models, we need to continue to support them to keep us ahead of the growth curve with proactive (prevention) strategies, always less expensive than reacting after the fact, with less human impacts.

Mo Rajabally: I strongly believe the City should not give carte blanche to irrigation districts. It is simply a question of health. The problem is: Will staff and Council take it seriously?

Dustin Sargent: I think clean water under consistent management is a good thing for the city. Watching S.E.K.I.D. start its process through this multi government funded initiative is exciting.

Brad Sieben: The entire city needs to build in redundancy to provide options in the case of any water utility's source being compromised.  I don't believe this transition needs to happen immediately, but I don't see a reason to have separate utilities in the future.

Mohini Singh: In a city the size of Kelowna we must have clean drinking water available to all neighbourhoods, water that is delivered through modern infrastructure and that meets the highest standards. If an irrigation district can’t meet that requirement then yes, I support the decision to partner with senior government to bring that infrastructure under city operation.

Luke Stack: The City has its hands full for the next few years integrating The South East Kelowna Irrigation District (SEKID) into its City-wide system. This will be a major improvement in water quality for these citizens. Once this work is completed, it will be time to explore how the remaining water districts, and their customers, could benefit by integrating into the larger City-wide system. At the end of the day, it will be a negotiation between the existing organizations.

Loyal Wooldridge: It’s unacceptable that any resident in our city does not have access to safe drinking water.  Many irrigation districts have been operating for 60+ years and simply don’t have the resources to upgrade their systems to the degree that is required.  The City of Kelowna has worked diligently to deliver this level of service to residents.  Any action that works to minimize the financial burden on a small number of residents while increasing their access to essential services like drinking water is a step in the right direction.  Transparent and continual discussions with the agricultural community are key to ensuring that we nurture our pioneering industries while advancing services.

 


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro 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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