Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Master Water Plan 2013 - what will it be?

Greater Water is on the threshold of producing yet another Master Water Plan. We are all waiting with bated breath to see what direction this plan will direct us. 

The Plan has been twelve years in the making with over 60 millions of ratepayers dollars invested already. This investment resulted in some improvements such as the ultra violet treatment of Kal Lake water and the cosmetic treatment (i.e. equal to water quality provided by Kal Lake for free) of nearly all of the irrigation water from Duteau Creek. 

Agricultural crops currently have the luxury of being irrigated with expensive treated water. Domestic customers of the DCWTP are receiving cosmetically improved water not acceptable by Interior Health as the final solution. In order to satisfy IH a filtration plant is required which would require large additional investments. One important problem is the allocation of costs between domestic and agriculture customers which will always exist as long as the two users use the same distribution system.

Let's hope we'll get a sensible resolution to the problem.

In 1991 as a first year Alderman for Coldstream I wrote the following letter to the Editor of the newspaper of the time. I hope that we learned from past mistakes and will not repeat them in the future. According to Albert Einstein "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." 
Here is my letter from 1991.

I read with interest the minutes of the meeting of the Interim Water Authority, March 26, 1991. It is noteworthy that the earlier attempts to form a Regional Water Authority failed because VID could not get assurances that the water supply for farm purposes would be guaranteed. Has VID received such assurances since? If so, what assurances have the  domestic costumers regarding their water supply?

On page two Mr. Harvey reported that VID was unsuccessful in obtaining grants to carry out pilot water treatment studies. This is why we were asked to apply for a $10,000 grant, along with the City and the North Okanagan Regional District. The remainder of the $50,000 study would be provided by VID.

As I have previously stated I was not in favour of applying for such grant. For the record, I would like to state the reasons for my reluctance in the following.

It is generally believed that Canadians are studied to death. Unfortunately, common sense does not always prevail when the decision regarding the need for a study is made. I feel that the study proposed by the Vernon Irrigation District to investigate methods of improving the colour of their water supply is one of these unnecessary studies.

To a superficial observer the study sounds to be a worthwhile effort and many people would agree that this is money well spent. However, appearances can be deceiving. Why? I ran a study of my own and came to some conclusions which I wish to relate to you free of charge.

First the facts. There are thousands of communities in North America that have to treat their domestic water supply. All sorts of methods are available and numerous companies will provide free estimates to treat whatever ails your water. In fact, it was reported that "Penticton Council has approved a plan for a rapid rate sand filtration system which has  microbiological control." (The Morning Star, April 26, 1991. p. 8). They believe the new system will eliminate brown water colour caused by spring runoff. Their problem is similar to ours except for one unique aspect. What is unique to our area is the delivery system?
Let’s take a look at our delivery system.

VID was originally established to provide water for orchards and other agricultural crops. The farming community acquired water rights on high elevation lakes and rivers and installed conduits to carry this water to their fields.

Compared to Kalamalka and Okanagan Lakes, VID sources look inferior. Goose Lake is the closest of these sources and in comparison to this lake MacKay reservoir looks quite acceptable. Of course, apple trees do not mind what the water looks like.

Eventually some enterprising individuals decided around 1967 that development could proceed much faster if we could secure some readily available water supply. Since VID water was available in the rural areas, using this water source was an ideal solution. The directors of VID realized the benefits of this option to themselves as it could reduce the cost of water to farmers. There was this small matter of water quality for domestic users but the attitude was that this problem could be solved later.

Problems did arise but the gravity of these problems did not hit home until recently when more and more people started to complain about the inferior quality of their water and demanded more for their money. VID, in essence, supplies raw water to both domestic and agricultural users. The only treatment VID water receives now is chlorination. For agricultural crops this is a luxury since no treatment is necessary for crops. Conversely, for domestic use the treatment is totally inadequate. Brownish colour during spring runoff coupled with the presence of fine particles makes this water unacceptable for domestic use. Unfortunately, these are the least of the problems. At times, VID water fails bacterial tests as well, since the high organic content reduces the effectiveness of chlorination. Outbreaks of beaver fever caused by Giardia is a constant threat. Giardia is not killed by chlorination and requires more sophisticated treatment.

Let us look at the reasons for these problems.

The ten-year average annual volume of water supplied by VID to all users is 13,285 acre feet (courtesy Mr. B. Harvey). That is the amount of water that would cover 13,285 acres at 1 foot depth. To put it in perspective, Vernon produces about 3,000 acre feet of effluent annually (including Coldstream's contribution). The highest volume of water processed by VID in any one year was apparently 17,300 acre feet. MacKay reservoir would hold only about a third of this amount.

The average amount of VID water used by domestic costumers is about 2,100 acre feet annually (this information was also supplied by Mr. Harvey. Other sources suggest a much lower domestic/agricultural use ratio). This is only 15.8% of the total water delivered. Because domestic users are plugged into the same pipe that delivers water to agricultural customers any treatment will have to be applied to all 13,285 acre feet of water. The chlorination treatment costs about $60,000 annually. Of this sum nearly $51,000 is wasted. Any further treatment also would have to apply to all of the water at fantastic costs. Since crops would not need this treatment, over 84% of these costs would be wasted.

Who would have to bear the brunt of these new costs? Obviously, since the treatment would benefit mostly the domestic costumers, they would have to be responsible for the costs. But why should they be responsible for the treatment of this inordinate amount of water when they only use a fraction of it? This would be unrealistic. There should be mutually acceptable solutions to this problem.

In fact, there are possible solutions but they are costly.

The first solution is to have filters installed in each domestic costumer's home. However, these filters should be of good quality that would eliminate all the problems, including potential health hazards, from the water. Each unit would have to be a multi media filter system (sand, activated carbon, and ceramic filter) yielding about 1.25 gallon of purified water per minute and costing between $3,000-$4,000, plus replacement filters.

The other solution, in my opinion the more favourable alternative, would be to separate the two delivery systems.

VID would continue to supply raw water to its agricultural customers. This water would need no treatment.

The Regional Water Authority would be responsible for delivery of domestic water to all domestic costumers. This would require the construction of new conduits to all areas presently supplied by VID. A water treatment plant would also have to be built to treat the raw water. The cost of this plant would depend on the source of the raw water. The source would depend on many factors (I assume this aspect was addressed by the water study which I have not been able to read yet). Some of these factors would be reliability of adequate quantities, cost of treatment and delivery, and acceptable quality. The Water Authority would make its decision on the source based on above factors.

If VID could supply adequate quantities on a sustained basis and if the treatment and pumping costs were lower than the same costs of the water obtained from Okanagan Lake, then it could enter into contractual agreement with the Regional Water Authority to supply the raw water.

This solution would cost money also but it would make sense. No treatment would be needed for irrigation water and high quality treatment could be afforded for domestic users. The sooner we realize that we have to act the cheaper the solution will be.

Who will pay for this solution?

Once the idea is accepted we must look for funding alternatives. Grants are often available and we would have to start actively searching for them. The users, who would have to buy treatment systems for their homes, would also have to contribute. The filtering system for individual households discussed above would cost them a lot of money ($3,000-$4,000 * 4,100 households = $12,000,000-$16,000,000). They might be persuaded to use some of this money towards a new delivery system. The first obstacle we have to overcome is the need to recognize the most sensible solution to the problem.

I would welcome comments on this issue from all concerned and would be glad to discuss any aspect of this matter.

Gyula Kiss
Alderman, Coldstream"

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Coldstream Ratepayers News! All Coldstream residents are ratepayers!

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.

Gyula Kiss;


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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.