Water funding good news for citizens

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.