How to provide clean, affordable drinking water is increasingly an issue for all communities, so it’s no surprise that Spallumcheen officials are contemplating their next steps.
Staff will investigate whether a well can be developed to meet the needs of all residents, replacing the current system of 14 independent water districts.
The challenge is most of the utilities are small and may only serve a handful of properties. That means the customer base to proceed with any upgrades to the system, even replacing underground pipes, is extremely onerous.
And the situation could only get worse.
The Interior Health Authority is eventually looking to have all utilities meet certain standards when it comes to water quality. In Greater Vernon, the process has come with a significant price — $29 million for the Duteau Creek treatment plant and an anticipated $20 million for filtration. If the much larger population base of Greater Vernon has struggled with these expenses, small utilities in Spallumcheen are facing an uphill battle.
Township council and staff deserve credit for investigating options because without a stable and cost-effective source of water, future development will be limited and that will have a negative impact on the economy and the tax base.
However, there are implications if the proposal proceeds. Instead of the individual utilities being responsible for themselves, the township and all taxpayers will be on the hook for upgrades and addressing IHA’s demands. That may also require additional staff to be hired.
There is no timeline for a new well, but there’s no question council will tap into major discussions among its residents.