Friday, May 13, 2016

Water Wise Program Launched

The warm weather has arrived early in the Okanagan  -- which has led to concerns there could be another drought this summer.

Eleven valley mayors or councillors took part in a news conference in Kelowna to launch the annual "Make Water Work" campaign.

It's a program put on by the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

Acting Vernon mayor Juliette Cunningham says water metering and restrictions have helped reduce water use in recent years -- but more can be done.

"24 percent of domestic water is used for outside landscaping, and we know we're in a dry climate, and we believe there is lots of room to move to less consumption," Cunningham tells Kiss FM.

Cunningham says there is a number of things residents can do to reduce water use in their yards.

"If you do have grass, you can leave it longer and not cutting it as frequently, and when you do water, you water it enough so that the water goes right down to encourage strong root growth," says the city councillor.

In addition to mayors taking and issuing challenges at today’s event, OBWB’s Communications Director Corinne Jackson announced the expansion of the Make Water Work Plant Collection, just in time for spring gardening.

“This year the collection has been expanded to include 54 plants, including beautiful grasses, perennials, shrubs and trees, perfect for the dry Okanagan climate,” says Jackson. “As well, two new garden centres have joined the program, bringing the total to nine, ensuring nearly all Okanagan residents can walk into a garden centre in their community and find the Make Water Work collection, making it easier than ever to find WaterWise choices for their yard.”

People who take the challenge and pledge to Make Water Work will be entered to win several prizes including a Grand Prize of a WaterWise yard upgrade worth $6,000, thanks to contest partners, ProSource Irrigation, Bylands and, Eco Turf Farms.

Residents can take the challenge, find the Make Water Work Plant Collection and water restrictions for their community, by visiting

Those joining Cunningham in taking the challenge today included: West Kelowna mayor and OBWB chair Doug Findlater, Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper, Acting Mayor for Lake Country Rob Geier, City of Kelowna Deputy Mayor Gail Given, Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin, Summerland Acting Mayor Toni Boot, Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes and Osoyoos Deputy Mayor CJ Rhodes.
It is so simple: don't use any water and we'll save all the water to run its course down to the sea! However, what about the $19 million budget? We need means to pay for it. We must cover it by water rates. 

If we use less water we must increase water rates. It's a vicious circle. If we had a truly user pay system saving water could benefit customers. Unfortunately, under the current rate system saving water does not save money for them it costs them more without the benefit of water. 

The current water system was designed to provide up to 9,670 ML/year to its customers increasing to 13,360 ML/year by 2052. Current annual consumption averages just over 6,000 ML/year. Customers are not abusing the system and should only be encouraged to reduce consumption when there are actual water shortages. GVWU staff justified high base fees on the basis of reduced consumption due to high rates. Further reduction will encourage staff to recommend even higher base fees which counters our stated policy of a user pay cost recovery. If we cannot provide the water need in 2016 what will happen in 2052 when the projected water demand will increase to 13,360?


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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.