Protecting drinking water at its source is very cost-effective because it can cost 40 times more to treat contaminated water than to protect it at its source, pointed out senior water engineer Don Dobson, with Urban Systems.
He was speaking at the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council meeting recently about whether the Okanagan should embark on a water management plan, and what role source water protection should play.
He noted that source protection high up in watersheds also protects the main lakes, like Okanagan Lake, lower in the watershed, which Rob Birtles, of Interior Health, pointed out is the basin’s largest reservoir lake.
He was discussing one method of protecting domestic water sources, by excluding everyone from the watershed, instead of permitting forestry, logging, range use and recreation.
“But there’s no way we could exclude people from using Okanagan Lake,” he commented, adding, “It’s all about trade-offs. What are we willing to trade off for the use of that area?”
He favours a multi-barrier approach to achieving safe drinking water, but admits the struggle is how best to protect water quality for the future, to achieve sustainability.
Dobson agreed that exclusion from watersheds, to protect our water sources, would not totally solve the problem.
Studies have shown than watershed sources of e-coli are about a third from people, a third from cattle and a third from wildlife, so even if you exclude two-thirds, you can’t exclude wildlife.