Saturday, March 18, 2017

Kelowna recives $44 million for domestic water separation

March 17, 2017

A successful funding application for Phase 1 of the 2017 Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan means clean safe drinking water is one step closer for citizens of South East Kelowna and a plentiful supply of agricultural irrigation water is coming to the South Mission.

The federal and provincial governments approved the City of Kelowna funding application of $43.9 million to bring treated lake water to South East Kelowna Irrigation District (SEKID) ratepayers for domestic use, and to resolve irrigation supply problems for the South Okanagan Mission Irrigation District (SOMID). The project will also allow another five small private water systems to connect. 

The total project cost is $61.3 million, with a combined local contribution of $17.4 million representing 28 per cent of total project costs.

“Funding of this magnitude is something we rarely see – in fact, this is the largest single grant anyone at the City can remember receiving,” said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran. “I want to thank the federal and provincial governments for acknowledging this essential need in Kelowna and for committing to help ensure our citizens have safe clean drinking water for a rapidly growing population a resilient and redundant water supply system to meet our agricultural needs in the face of climate change.”

A transition plan, a requirement of the provincial government and the grant application, is underway to map out the process for SEKID and the City of Kelowna to work together on Phase 1 of the 2017 Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan.  Pending the timely completion of a successful transition agreement clean drinking water is anticipated to be delivered to the majority of SEKID ratepayers by the end of 2019, or earlier if possible, with a target completion date to all SEKID customers by 2020.  In addition to the significant direct cost savings to ratepayers the project would also be completed 10 years faster than without government funding. The work to service SOMID is also expected to be completed by 2019.

“The plan achieves more than just good water quality – it will also achieve rate equity, a more resilient and robust system and maintains the interest of our agricultural community,” said Project Manager Ron Westlake.

The grant announcement will allow for the initial phase of the long-term integration plan to be implemented and set the groundwork for future integration.  Phase 1 includes the separation of agricultural and domestic systems in SEKID; in the short-term domestic water will be supplied through a new transmission line connecting to the City of Kelowna’s water distribution system from Okanagan Lake.  Agricultural water will continue to be supplied from Hydraulic Creek with emergency connections to the domestic supply in the event of service disruption. Phase 1 will also see a sustainable agricultural water supply delivered to SOMID, along with upgrades to the City of Kelowna’s water utility to supply both SEKID and SOMID and accommodate future growth.

The overall direction for an integrated system is established by the 2017 Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan and will inform future phases. The plan was developed using existing plans during a Value Planning exercise held in January, as a provincial requirement to determine the best lowest cost city-wide solution. The study was conducted by an objective engineering firm from the United States, with the participation of local water experts. 

The new plan will achieve:
Clean drinking water for all citizens

Agricultural interests maintained and protected
A resilient and redundant system that will help Kelowna navigate an uncertain future when it comes to climate change and increased regulation

Equitable rates, supply and service – some residents are paying twice as much as others for water that doesn’t meet Canadian guidelines, depending on which irrigation district is supplying the water.
“This plan will eventually ensure all our citizens have clean drinking water at equitable rates, while our domestic and agricultural needs are met with an integrated system that has the flexibility to draw water from a number of options to meet demand,” said Mayor Basran.
So much for GVWU staff's arguments that government grants would not be available for domestic water separation. 
We will be the only community in the valley to spend millions of dollars to treat agricultural water with ultra violet irradiation and eventually filtration only to use 80% of it on agricultural irrigation. Good job, consultants and staff!
SEKID customers, who earlier rejected a borrowing referendum of about $25 million, will now be getting a brand new domestic line attached to the City of Kelowna's domestic water supply from Okanagan Lake courtesy of senior governments grants of $44 million.

To date we spent over $70 million on our soon(?) to be updated Master Water Plan. (Only $35 million was authorized by ratepayers in the 2004 referendum). About 60% of these monies were spent on altering the perfectly functioning irrigation system. The remainder was spent on the domestic water supply improvements from Kal Lake. 

GVWU staff recently released the expected long term budget for the Master Water Plan. 
In addition to the already spent $70+ million we can expect to spend an additional $147 million for a grand total of over $215 million for the plan. And these are the estimates by the same people who estimated the cost of the Duteau Creek Treatment Plant at $16 million (final cost almost$30 million). About $111 million of this money will be spent on the irrigation system (the old VID) for a grand total of about $156 million. The cost of the original VID system was $7.9 million.
There is one more important thing to remember: staff and politicians do not want to fail this time. So instead of going out for another referendum the proposal is to collect money from us in advance through water rates. The annual amount would be about the same as our annual cost of financing would have been for the rejected $70 million (in the range of $4-5 million annually). When sufficient reserves are collected in future years then portions of the plan will be constructed as money allows.

The problem with this approach is that many of us will never see the improvements we are paying for in advance. It's like someone setting aside money for a house so he/she would not have to borrow. In the meantime he/she lives in a rental home while the cost of the dream house keep escalating and part of the mortgage is spent on the rental. Instead, if the plan is the right plan, we should borrow the funds and pay while enjoying the benefits of a new MWP. I would be the first one to vote for a normal, separated domestic/agriculture water system. This plan is not the right plan!

Look for future discussions on this very important issue for our community right here in this blog.

Next: The hidden costs of the current proposed MWP! Who is paying for what and the cost to you!


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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.