Group lobbies for utility changes

The Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan made its case to Coldstream council Monday

A fresh look, a fresh source and hopefully a drop in rates is what some Greater Vernon citizens are hoping for.

The Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan made its case to Coldstream council Monday. The group is asking for an independent review of the Greater Vernon master water plan.

“Ultimately, we feel there should be a new master water plan that returns rates to an affordable level,” said spokesperson Eric Jackson, who served as Vernon’s director of water reclamation for 25 years.

Coldstream has agreed to further discuss the plan at an upcoming committee of the whole meeting, and bring the issue to the Regional District of North Okanagan, which also has plans for discussion and public input.

“We have been sitting there for six years now trying to have a debate on water system rates,” said Coun. Gyula Kiss, who has championed for change.

The cost of water has tripled in the last dozen years, according to the group, which says in 2003 residents were paying about $300 for 350 cubic metres of water.

“That same amount now is costing $900,” said Jackson, not including the two per cent cost increase on tap for water users.

“It (water) has become a hardship.”

The group says residents are getting hosed by high rates, especially when compared to other communities.

Annual water bills, based on the same 350 cubic metres, for 2014 for Kelowna were $291, Penticton was $427, Port Moody is $371 and Langley residents pay $433

The group also says rising costs, along with treating mainly agricultural water, is what led to the defeat of the Nov. 15 defeat of the master water plan borrowing referendum.

Water use data from the Duteau Creek treatment plant in 2011 and 2012 shows that only four per cent of the treated water was used for domestic during peak summer days.

“The balance, 96 per cent, of the treated water was used for agricultural irrigation,” said Jackson, questioning why Duteau Creek water is being treated to supply mainly irrigation.

Kiss suggests transferring the array of existing water licenses in the area to Okanagan Lake.

“Treatment cost is significantly lower,” said Kiss, who applauds Jackson’s ideas.

“I think you’re on the right track.”

Meanwhile others took some offences to Jackson’s presentation.

“There’s decisions made from the 1960s to present day,” said Coun. Doug Dirk.

“We’re in the unfortunate situation of determining how to go forward. It’s not fruitful to discuss how things could have been done.”