Water plan moving ahead

Regional District of North Okanagan directors approved the master water plan Wednesday

A multi-million-dollar, 24-year upgrade to Greater Vernon’s water system has overcome a major hurdle.

Regional District of North Okanagan directors approved the master water plan Wednesday, meeting an Interior Health Authority deadline to have a document submitted by today.

“This has been a lot of work,” said Patrick Nicol, board chairperson.

The process began in March 2011 when IHA issued an official order for a master water plan to be developed.

“We analyzed every aspect of the water system and we looked at a number of options,” said Dale McTaggart, RDNO’s engineering general manager.

The preferred option calls for partial separation for irrigation and domestic uses, with treatment at the Duteau Creek and Mission Hill plants. Total capital costs would be about $111 million between 2013 and 2037.

“Option two gets maximum separation for the best cost,” said McTaggart, adding that not treating irrigation water will reduce operating expenses.

McTaggart believes the option also meets domestic needs, particularly when weather disrupts water supply.

“Already two or three times we’ve had to switch water sources. It shows how important it is to have two treatment plants and two sources,” he said.

Up to 2017, about $2 million in capital costs can be funded through utility rates but there will be a need to borrow $68 million.

Public assent for borrowing will be required either through a petition or  referendum, which could be held in the spring or fall of 2014. It’s anticipated that water rates could double over time.

But even if the referendum fails, the plan could still move ahead.

“If we do nothing, IHA will likely give us an order (to proceed),” said McTaggart.