Monday, December 29, 2014

A new paradigm for the Greater Vernon Master Water Plan

The Master Water Plan's $70 million borrowing referendum was soundly defeated by the electorate in November. Everyone had their own reason for voting against the borrowing. In the followings I reflect on some of the reasons I voted against the borrowing.

The VID system was perfectly capable of supplying all its irrigation customers with low cost agricultural quality water. It needed no alteration to satisfy irrigation needs.

A mistake was made when domestic water supply was connected to the irrigation system from the late 1960's on to date. It should have been obvious that domestic customers could only receive raw irrigation water through this system.

The remedy should be  to have  the domestic water customers separated  from the irrigation (Duteau) system. This was clearly stated in MWP 2002. In my opinion all domestic supply should be provided from the Mission Hill (Kalamalka Lake) treatment plant by extending that supply to the current Duteau Creek customers. When that license is exhausted Okanagan Lake should be utilized for additional domestic supply.

Instead, we have spent about $45 million (68% of total expenditure) on altering the perfectly functioning irrigation system.  Even after this huge expenditure the majority of the mixed system remains. We actually created an additional domestic water supply that provides high cost domestic water to both domestic and agriculture customers. As a result our water rates increased over threefold since 2002. We did not resolve the problem that we intended to resiolve, we just made it more expensive.

The 2012 MWP proposes to spend an additional $58.3 million on the irrigation system alterations. That would make the expenditure on the Duteau system a grand total of $103.3 million by 2022. It is a huge expenditure just to provide domestic water from Duteau Creek to the 20% of domestic customers. This is compounding the original  mistake! Those funds should be spent on the total separation of the two systems. The Duteau irrigation system should be left for the use of agriculture. Domestic water should be provided from Kalamalka Lake to all domestic customers.

The above expenditures are only for the initial infrastructure financing. In addition there are the annual treatment costs at Duteau Creek between $2-3 million. Duteau water is the most expensive to treat and most of the treated water is used for irrigation.

There is also the maintenance and infrastructure replacement costs of the Duteau domestic water system and the new raw water system. Those are all costs fo the domestic customers.

Another problem is the competition for water in low snow pack years between irrigation and domestic customers. The Aberdeen source is totally dependent on annual snow and rain fall. There were drought years when Grizzly Lake almost totally dried up. If no domestic water is required from the Duteau system irrigation customers can allocate the available irrigation water based only on crop demands.
In the mean time there are unused water licenses on BX Creek that could be utilized if we turned our attention to the Kalamalka/Okanagan Lake alternative. One of the recommendations contained in MWP 2012 is to reserve 50,000 megaliters (50 million cubic meters) of water licenses on Okanagan Lake. This request indicates that the final plan is to utilize Okanagan Lake as the main water source (like Kelowna does). If that happens all of the investments in the Duteau system will become redundant.

The taxpayers expressed their opinion on the current MWP. We must develop a new paradigm for our future water plan. The new direction must come from the taxpayers through their elected representatives. Consultants and staff must follow that direction instead of the other way around. 

Taxpayers must also be involved in developing the new plans. We cannot develop something in isolation and hand over another inferior plan and ask taxpayers to rubber stamp it. My new years resolution is to continue to inform the electorate on the progress of the new plans.
Watch for further reports on this blog and pass it on to your friends and neighbours. We need to do this together!

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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.

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.