Agriculture water rates put in context

Coldstream resident provides his thoughts on the water utility

I am replying to Gerry Laarakker’s letter of June 28 concerning agricultural water. The rate per cubic meter paid by farmers for agricultural water is far lower than the domestic rate and for good reason.

Farmers do not need treated water. However, treated water is today being utilized on a significant proportion of the local farm land. Why?

To understand how this came about, we have to go back to the early 1960s when the politicians of Vernon, Coldstream and the surrounding areas decided to utilize chlorinated agricultural water to meet the escalating domestic water needs.

They contracted with the agricultural supplier, the Vernon Irrigation District, to provide this water, which met domestic water standards in force at the time. All water was distributed through one common set of pipes.

This dual use water system worked well for the next 20 years. It allowed for the growth in urban residential areas, plus commercial and industrial interests.

At the same time, owners of the many rural properties in the area had a dependable supply of water for their homes and fields.

However, in the 1990s, new domestic water standards were introduced which made it necessary to improve the water quality by means of enhanced treatment.

Since treatment is expensive and agricultural water does not require same, the technical solution was to have two separate sets of pipes to deliver the two types of water.  Of course there is also a cost to building a separated system.

Over the past decade, a considerable effort has been made to separate many domestic water connections from the agricultural source. This work continues.

However, there is still a significant amount of treated water being utilized on farm land.

We need to continue with more separation projects, bearing in mind that it may not be cost effective to have complete separation.

The objective should be to have an affordable domestic water supply but also an agricultural supply which is competitive with other farming areas in the Okanagan.

The untreated, pressurized agricultural water system put in place some 40 years ago still meets the industry’s present and future needs.

Moreover, ensuring that the agricultural rates are competitive will allow for significant economic benefits to be continually derived by the community.

Jamie Kidston