The City of Vernon is preparing to release reclaimed water into Okanagan Lake near Kin Beach as the MacKay Reservoir is reaching its maximum capacity.
The Vernon Water Reclamation Centre (VWRC) treats around 12.3 million litres of influent, including domestic, commercial and industrial wastewater, every day. This water is piped to the reservoir 10 kilometres from the reclamation centre and used for irrigation purposes, but due to insignificant drops in the reservoir’s water level, it’s nearing its maximum storage capacity.
Under the City’s Operating Certificate issued by the Ministry of Environment, the city has been given the go-ahead to redirect the flow of treated reclaimed water directly into the lake starting February through a deep-lake outfall seven kilometres southwest of Kin Beach.
The outfall is approximately 1.5-2 kilometres from either shore and is 60 metres below the water surface.
The treated water being redirected into Okanagan Lake will have no impacts on the environment or lake users, VWRC manager Serge Kozin said Monday in council chambers.
Mayor Victor Cumming said this is not an unusual practice for municipalities in the Okanagan — the biggest of which is the City of Kelowna.
West Kelowna, the districts of Peachland and Summerland and the City of Penticton also discharge the majority of its treated reclaimed water into Okanagan Lake, or adjacent water courses, each day.
The mayor said this isn’t the first time the City of Vernon has done this, either, and water treatment processes have been significantly improved since it was done before in the 1990s.
By reflowing the high-quality reclaimed water into the lake, the spray irrigation program, permitted by the Ministry of Environment, will be able to continue its use of water from the MacKay Reservoir, lowering the water level.
The cause for high water levels in the reservoir is due to three consecutive years of wetter and cooler summers, increased cloud cover, smoke from wildfires and atypical rain fail. These contributing factors have reduced the use of irrigation water from MacKay Reservoir to prevent over-saturation of pasture and crop lands and recreation areas.
“Reclaimed water from MacKay Reservoir is used to irrigate local golf courses, ball diamonds, soccer pitches, agricultural land used for grazing and hay production, two seed orchards, a seedling nursery and other tree plantations,” City of Vernon communications manager Christy Poirier said Jan. 20.
The city is working with the Ministry of Environment to determine when the discharge into Okanagan Lake will end.
The City of Vernon is inviting members of the public to take a 90-minute guided tour of VWRC Saturday, Jan. 25. Two tours will be available, one starting at 11 a.m., the other at 1 p.m. Space is limited and the public is asked to RSVP by 3 p.m. on Jan. 24. Reservations can be made via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 250-550-3627.