KELOWNA MOVES FORWARD ON $85 MILLION WATER PROJECT
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By Jan Rose
Kelowna city council on May 14 gave its blessing to the $86-million Kelowna Integrated Water Phase project to supply drinking water to nearly 2000 households and water for agriculture. The city, population 195,000, is located in the Okanagan Valley approximately 398 kilometres east of Vancouver.
The project includes separating the agricultural and domestic water systems. Separating them allows for the delivery of a sustainable water supply for agriculture in the South Mission neighbourhood.
Kelowna receives its water supply directly from Okanagan Lake.
The first phase of the project, having a city-wide consolidated water system via the 2017 Kelowna Integrated water supply plan, is expected to take three years. That is seven years earlier than originally planned. Construction is to start in July.
A separate domestic water system will serve all customers of the Southeast Kelowna Irrigation District, (SEKID) with the city's treated water, explained Special Projects Manager Ron Westlake. "The existing SEKID system will be left in place to serve only agricultural customers with irrigated water and to provide fire flow."
Westlake said the water project, ongoing from the present to 2020, "involves the integration of the South East Kelowna Irrigation District (SEKID) with the city's water utility."
SEKID's water utility currently supplies both agricultural and domestic customers using one distribution system. "While they (SEKID) have some wells," Westlake explained, their main source of water is from "one of the many creeks that flow down through Kelowna."
"There are over 25 other water systems in Kelowna but they are not part of this project," he said during an interview.
The large number of water suppliers goes back to the formation of irrigation districts. They were initially formed with the main purpose of supplying irrigation water to the sizable agricultural base within the area.
Additional small utilities were created to service small pockets of land development over the years, Westlake explained. The many systems became part of the area overseen by the city after the expansion of Kelowna's boundaries in 1973. Since then a number of the utilities came under the control of the city and integrated into its water utility.
Presently, Kelowna supplies approximately 52 percent of domestic water within the city which will increase slightly with the integration of SEKID. More than 40 percent of the domestic water service will be provided by other independent water utilities.
"The city's vision is to progressively work towards a city-wide utility that supports all water needs," Westlake said. "It can't happen overnight and must be done in a smooth and well-thought out approach. The integration of SEKID is the first phase of implementing this vision."