Ambitious plan for water use in Lake Country

Residents will pay $50 per year for four years to help offset the costs of the $110 million system upgrade.

Lake Country Mayor James Baker and the rest of council want to keep the district’s water supply pristine and abundant without being wasteful. Council approved a rate increase and unveiled a water master plan last week that will revitalize the district’s water supply.

The District of Lake Country is moving forward with its water master plan for the area, adopting a new 20-year plan and rate increase for water users in Lake County.

Residents will pay $50 per year for four years to help offset the costs of the $110 million system upgrade which will address the challenges unique to Lake Country and which supports growth and recognizes the agricultural role in the community.

The infrastructure upgrades will eventually cost water users a base amount of $735 per year depending on the water usage, which will be measured by universal metering.

The plan provides a broad assessment of the district’s future water source, treatment and distribution needs, and proposes a number of infrastructure improvements over the next 20 years.

“This is an ambitious plan that will definitely put us on the map for water quality in B.C. if not in Canada,” said Coun. Penny Gambell.

“Everyone deserves safe drinking water and the district has the responsibility to provide safe water,” added Greg Buchholz, operations manager for the District of Lake Country. “The system is in need of renewal because it is old and some infrastructure is starting to fail. The new Water Master Plan will save us money in the long run, but only if we make investments in our water system now.”

In a presentation delivered last week to Lake Country council, Buchholz laid out the Water Master Plan, what it is all about, why it is necessary, how much it will cost, and the public input over the past year and a half.

Buchholz emphasized the need to achieve:

• a consistent level of service to all existing customers

• full compliance with existing Interior Health Authority policies

• adequate capacity to meet the growth needs of the district and

• proactive management to minimize future risks.

The infrastructure improvements will be paid for through a combination of residential, commercial and agricultural water rates, provincial and federal government grants and development cost charges.

The financial strategy is based on the best possible information available and is flexible regarding growth, inflation and grants.

Council approved $50 annual increases on water rates over the next four years.

“We need water that is reliable, safe and clean,” emphasized Buchholz.  “It is the right thing to do. Delaying spending now only results in increased costs later.”

Buchholz told council the area has a good supply of water from Kalamalka and Okanagan lakes as well as mountain lakes and Middle Vernon Creek, but the aging infrastructure is in need of an upgrade to deal with several issues moving forward.

The plan calls for metred watering to come in making residents and agriculturists accountable for how much water they use.

“Universal metres will mean people are paying for what they are using,” he said. “It’s been proven to control water use. Some residents will pay more than the $735 (annual rate) if they abuse the water and some will pay less but the average would be $735 per year.”

The plan also still has to be approved by Interior Health, which was hoping for a quicker transition than the 20-year-plan lays out, according to Buchholz.

“We have not received sign off from Interior Health,” said Buchholz. “The biggest issue they have is they want to see the program advanced more quickly. They are asking for treatment now on a number of issues that we can’t deliver.

“We have shown them this is a reasonable plan, an affordable plan for the community to advance the water treatments,” Buchholz said. “They want it done quicker and we’re saying it has to be affordable for the community. This is an achievable plan and I believe they will come to that conclusion as well.”

A 20-year Capital Projects Summary was developed to highlight the details of each project. Following the Kal Lake Interconnect project, which will be completed in the spring of 2013, the next major project will be universal water metering, which will start to be rolled out in 2014.

Read the Water Master Plan at www.okanaganway.ca/municipal-services/water/water-master-plan/.

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