Saturday, February 18, 2012

Review of the Master Water Plan.


The “great water rate debate” for this year  concluded by GVAC Committee members. The Committee eventually agreed to a proposal sponsored by Councillor Spiers and myself. Those customers who use water sparingly will have smaller increases than those using a lot but everyone will see their water bill climbing this year and next. The actual water calculator developed by Councillor Spiers can be viewed and used to calculate your bills at 2012 rates.

Obviously, many people will be disturbed by the huge increases. Just to demonstrate the magnitude of the increases in the past 12 years I dug up my water bills from 2000 along with the consumption volumes. Then I calculated the current year’s expected costs for the same amount of consumption. Here are the results:
The results are striking. Cost of the same quantity of water rose from $219.34 in 2000 to $729.44 in 2012. That is an increase of $510 or 233% in 12 years. Just for a reminder take a look at the “come-on” advertisement (to support the borrowing of $35 million) in 2004 prior to the referendum (below).
It appears that the “cash basis” would have been a lot better deal.
 It is even more dramatic for low water users. A customer using the minimum of 20 m3  of water per quarter paid $49.48 per year in 2000. This year the same quantity of water costs $365.60, an increase of 639%. In fact, low water consumers shoulder proportionately significantly higher cost of the water quality improvements than do those of high consumers. 
Unfortunately, if we continue heading in the same direction, costs will escalate even more drastically. Conflicts between agricultural and domestic users will intensify. Sings of this conflict have already shown up at the last GVAC meeting.

The major problem here is that the current treatment model is only a more expensive version of the old VID model. True, the water is cleaner, more pleasing to the eye and more palatable but as far as disinfection is concerned it is only marginally improved. We only use chlorine as disinfection. This is why Interior Health is requesting filtration at a huge expense. Further more,  most of the treated water  still ends up on agricultural crops. Added to this is the fact that the production of treated water cannot meet demands at peek consumption periods, hence more water advisories. To top it all, the treatment plant cost was $29 million and the annual treatment costs exceed $1 million. This is why our water rates are continuing to go through the roof.

Current plans seem to head in a direction that would continue to maintain the problem. The 2002 Master Water Plan clearly stated the problem: mixed domestic and agricultural water in the same delivery system. Recommendation: total separation of the two systems.

Politicians of the 2004 era ignored the advice of their own consultants and decided to take a plan that was specially rejected by the experts. The Duteau Creek plant is built to treat four times as much water as is needed for domestic use. Unfortunately, we are the ones bearing the consequences of that mistake. Unless we return to the principle of separating the two systems we are going to continue compounding the problems for now and for future generations. Treatment costs will continue to escalate. Selling a huge proportion of this expensive water at a 90% discount for irrigation is an untenable practice.

What is the solution?

The solution is total separation of domestic and agriculture water delivery system as was recommended by the 2002 MWP. This would eliminate:

    ○    expensive treatment of irrigation water
    ○    agriculture will pay true cost of untreated water
    ○    reduce cost to domestic customers
    ○    eliminate friction between the two class of customers
    ○    all domestic customers would receive same quality water
    ○    reduce treatment costs as all water would come from Kal Lake
    ○    eliminate friction between domestic water partners.

How could we achieve the task of returning to total separation?

We simply dust off the part of the MWP relating to the separation. Using the existing Reservoir Road treatment plant we can supply all the domestic water for GVW customers. The plant was recently upgraded to use ultra violet treatment of Kal Lake water. It was also constructed to accommodate growth. While we are close to the limit of our license on the lake we should be able to transfer some of our water license on the Duteau system to Kal Lake and replenish the water we use for extra domestic use. This could be accomplished by depositing the domestic portion of Duteau water into Kal Lake.

We must make the right choice if we look for the best interest of the customers, our taxpayers. Taxpayers must take an active role in deciding which direction the new Master Water Plan is heading.

P.S.: To calculate your potential water bill for the year please visit online water calculator presented by Councillor Spiers.



grasshopper said...

How would the Duteau water get to Kal Lake? And I was wondering about the outlet dam on Kal, doesnt it need a big upgrade to reliably handly water levels so there is no flooding? I'm just thinking that to handle all the domestic needs, Kal water levels would have to be kept as close to full pool as possible with the Duteau water and this would cause a higher chance of flooding again.

Coldstreamer said...

Water from Duteau could be delivered either through a pipe or through Coldstream Creek. The volume of water needed from Duteau is negligible (3-5 million cubic meters annually) compared to the year to year input from surface and subsurface sources. The water levels are currently controlled by the Ministry of Environment and would be done so in the future. We should consider all the benefits of a single, low cost treatment plant versus two plants: one a low cost supplying 75% of the utility customers and a high cost plant supplying 25% of domestic and a substantial percentage of agricultural customers with high cost treated water.

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The opinions expressed by "Coldstreamer" are strictly his own and do not represent the opinions of Coldstream Council!

Because I value your thoughtful opinions, I encourage you to add a comment to this discussion. Don't be offended if I edit your comments for clarity or to keep out questionable matters, however, and I may even delete off-topic comments.

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About Me

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I have been a resident of Coldstream since 1976. I have had 15 years of experience on Council, 3 years as Mayor. As a current Councillor I am working to achieve fair water and sewer rates and to ensure that taxpayers get fair treatment. The current direction regarding water supply is unsustainable and I am doing all I can to get the most cost effective water supply possible.