Waste water sought for local crops

The City of Vernon will lobby the provincial government to expand the uses for its spray irrigation program

Local agriculture could eventually be fuelled by treated waste water.

The City of Vernon will lobby the provincial government to expand the uses for its spray irrigation program under the proposed liquid waste management plan. Currently, treated effluent water just goes on to cattle pastures, parks and golf courses.

“In Florida, they use reclaimed water for crops,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham after council approved 16 recommendations Monday.

“They need to recognize the value of our reclaimed water.”

The Ministry of Health has been reluctant to expand irrigation to food crops, but a consultant with Urban Systems points out that many of the tomatoes local residents purchase in the store are irrigated by treated waste water in California.

“There are conflicting regulations that handcuff what land can be used for spray irrigation,” said Ehran Lee, a water engineer.

“These regulations need to be addressed.”

Vernon’s spray irrigation program also means the city isn’t pumping treated effluent into Okanagan Lake as other communities do regularly.

The concept is unpopular with many Vernon residents.

“If we’re trying to maintain an opportunity not to discharge into the lake, we need to expand the land base,” said Cunningham of Vernon’s expected population growth over the next 20 years.

“We have high-quality water after it’s treated.”

Lake discharge would remain as an option during emergencies.

It’s expected the total price tag for the liquid waste management plan is $38.5 million over 20 years. Of that, $25.3 million would come from new customers, $1.8 million from existing sewer ratepayers and $11.3 million from taxpayers.

“These are the best guess of the costs but they will be offset by efficiencies in the system,” said Greg Thompson, the city’s municipal financial technician.

There could also be federal and provincial grants to improve watershed health.

“The environment is the purview of senior government,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky.

As a way of reducing costs and easing pressure on the overall sewer treatment process, residents could be urged to conserve indoor water, such as flushing toilets.

Greater public acceptance of turning sewer sludge into the Ogogrow fertilizer is also included in the plan. Much of the program would revolve around controlling odours.

The liquid waste management plan must still be accepted by the Ministry of Environment.