Committee discusses OK Lake options

Tapping into a new water source could create challenges in Greater Vernon

Tapping into a new water source could create challenges in Greater Vernon.

Members of the master water plan stakeholders advisory committee were provided with information Thursday about possibly drawing water from Okanagan Lake, something that presently doesn’t occur.

“You would have a pump station at the head of the lake and pump all of the way to the Mission Hill treatment plant,” said consultant Brett deWynter.

A pump station would be required because Okanagan Lake’s surface elevation is 341.5 metres, which means it is lower than Vernon.

“No one has control over what electrical rates will become,” said deWynter of the need for power to pump the water uphill.

The present water system is gravity-fed, with Duteau Creek at an elevation of 649.95 metres and Kalamalka Lake at 391.7 metres.

Committee member Paul Williamson suggested constructing a treatment plant near Goose Lake that could draw water from Okanagan Lake and service northwest Greater Vernon, Spallumcheen and the Okanagan Indian Reserve.

“That’s an option we should definitely look at,” he said.

Another concern about switching from the Duteau source to Okanagan Lake is the potential arrival of invasive mussels in the region.

The mussels flourish in calcium rich water such as Kalamalka and Okanagan lakes, whereas there are low calcium levels in Duteau Creek.

These mussels clog water intake pipes, pumps and boat motors. They also deplete food sources for fish and produce toxins that kill fish and birds and contaminate drinking water.

“Putting an intake in at different depths (in the lake) could not work,” said Doug Neden, committee member.

The committee was also provided information on water utilities in other local jurisdictions.

In Kelowna, about 60,000 people get their water from Okanagan Lake, with the remaining 60,000 served by up to 10 other independent utilities.

“It has zero agricultural base,” said deWynter of the City of Kelowna utility from Okanagan Lake.

Presently, the City of Kelowna system is not filtrated but that may not be avoidable in the future.

“Water rates in Kelowna will go up, they are going up,” said Jim Garlick, committee chairperson, of government regulations.

In Penticton, two water sources are used and filtration has been in place since the mid-1990s.

“The treatment facility was built with 33 per cent tax dollars and the rest came from elsewhere (senior government),” said deWynter.

“Federal government funding is not where it was back in the 1990s.”

West Kelowna has two water sources and the treatment technologies vary.

“One group of residents pays for filtered water and another group pays for non-filtered water. It’s a legacy of two irrigation districts,” said deWynter.

Garlick says the amalgamation of Greater Vernon’s water utilities and system upgrades have been beneficial.

“I’m thankful that we have Duteau Creek. We have everyone paying the same rate and people can see through their water,” he said.