The announcement of a senior government grant to help pay for upgrades to Lake Country’s water system should allow the district to complete its move to a universal water metering system for both residential and agriculture water users by the end of 2016.
Lake Country received $788,036—$394,018 each from the provincial and federal governments—and will kick in its own $394,018 for a $1.18 million dollar project to install back-flow prevention devices on agriculture water systems, protecting Lake Country’s overall system from contamination.
The funding is part of the overall water master plan in the district which this year has seen about two-thirds of residential customers receive new water meters with the aim of having all residential customers updated to the new water meters this year before work to complete the agriculture systems takes place in 2016.
“This year the primary focus is on residential installs which we started in early March in the Oyama area before we moved to Winfield, Okanagan Centre and Carrs Landing and we’re now working on the Coral Beach and Lakepine water systems,” explained Kiel Wilke, Lake Country engineering technician. “The water meters are really going to ensure our water system is able to run sustainable for years to come. The water master plan is about supplying safe, sustainable and affordable water to the community.”
The district’s 20-year water master plan is now into its fourth year and universal metering was originally set to be completed in 2015. But due to budget constraints the project extended into next year and according to Wilke will go a long way to ensuring the project is completed on budget.
While the residential portion of the water meters is expected to be complete by the end of this year, residents won’t be paying on a user-pay model until 2017 as the district will instead go though a year of a mock billing cycle where they will receive a regular bill the same as past years but also a mock bill, showing how much water they have used and how much it would cost under the new system.
“In community after community it’s been proven that the best way to ensure water conservation techniques is to have the customers pay for the water they use,” said Wilke.
Farmers will have a different system and the district is investigating what is called an allocation system where agriculture users are allocated a certain amount of water per acre.
The 20-year-plan contains $80 million worth of capital projects including the universal water metering as well as a new water treatment facility. The majority of the projects within the water master plan will rely on senior government funding support and if the district doesn’t receive the funding, the project likely gets re-scheduled to a later date.
But Wilke says completing the universal meters is a big step that will not only benefit the water system as a whole, but will help the district secure more grants.
“It’s a lot more difficult to get grant funding if you don’t have water meters in place or water conservation techniques in place,” he said.
Next year will also be the final year of five years of a $50 water rate increase to help fund the water master plan in the district.