Water comparisons doused

A group scrutinizing Greater Vernon’s water utility is being urged to look beyond perceptions

A group scrutinizing Greater Vernon’s water utility is being urged to look beyond perceptions.

The master water plan stakeholder advisory committee held its inaugural session Thursday and one of the members raised a common public comment that local water rates are higher than in other communities.

“Being compared to Penticton and Kelowna is comparing apples to oranges,” said Zee Marcolin, utility manager for the Regional District of North Okanagan.

“Kelowna has five utilities and the City of Kelowna’s utility covers a compact area and only has domestic customers and not agriculture.”

Besides the City of Kelowna’s water utility, which draws from Okanagan Lake, the rest of that community is served by irrigation districts, which use other water sources, such as creeks.

“There isn’t just one utility called the Kelowna utility,” said Jim Garlick, SAC chairperson and Coldstream mayor.

The cost of conforming to provincial water quality regulations is an issue in Kelowna just as it is in Greater Vernon.

“They (irrigation districts) are facing challenges because they are fragmented,” said Garlick.

In Kelowna, Mayor Colin Basran has expressed concerns about multiple water improvement districts and the ability to pay for improvements.

As a result, representatives from the Black Mountain Irrigation District, Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District, Rutland Waterworks and South East Kelowna Irrigation District recently issued a statement.

“While the idea of one grand interconnected utility may sound appealing there are realistic technical challenges with this notion. With different sources and water qualities within the five districts, would those in a district with better water quality be willing to sacrifice their good water and have water from a utility with lesser quality water now being delivered to their homes and businesses?” they stated.

After years of discussions, Vernon and Coldstream’s municipal utilities merged with the former Vernon Irrigation District in 2002 to form a single entity.

“Greater Vernon Water is the third largest utility in B.C. by volume,” said Marcolin.

“We are one of the few regional systems.”

Greater Vernon Water serves about 53,000 people, has 83 water licenses, 700 kilometres of pipe and two treatment plants. Its summer flow is 260 megalitres of water a day.

— with files from the Kelowna Capital News