Greater Vernon is facing a water crunch.
Politicians were warned Thursday that the Duteau Creek treatment plant is virtually at capacity and steps are needed to alleviate pressure.
“We were extremely challenged this summer with capacity issues,” said Zee Marcolin, utilities engineer, told the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee.
The plant was brought online in late 2010, but it’s struggling to keep up largely because a majority of the water being treated is going on to farm land. Closure of the Antwerp Springs well source because of contamination has also led to more users on Duteau.
Total capacity for the facility is 160 megalitres a day and it was running at 157 megalitres during the summer.
“We’re at our limit,” said Marcolin, who urged GVAC directors to proceed with separating agricultural customers from domestic users.
Through separation, untreated water for agricultural activities would not go through the plant.
If the plant goes beyond capacity, staff may have to run raw water around the treatment process and allow it to enter the distribution system. The raw water would be chlorinated but a water quality advisory alerting residents of potential bacteria may be necessary.
Director Mike Macnabb isn’t surprised by the current situation.
“The original master water plan had agricultural separation as a key point of all of this (treatment plant) and a political decision was made at the time not to proceed,” he said.
“Now we’re going to pay the price.”
There is no firm price for separating agricultural users from the domestic water system but it could range from $50 to $70 million.
“This will impact us at the budget stage,” said Trafford Hall, Regional District of North Okanagan administrator, adding that will impact user fees.
“The price of water will have to go up.”
Separation for the West Swan Lake area is currently underway and that could cost $8 million.
There is also the possibility of moving ahead with separation projects at Springfield and Binns roads in Coldstream. They would account for 22 megalitres a day.
“We have to get treated water off our fields,” said Hall.