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Water Stewardship

Policy Area 3: Water Stewardship

Water is a vital component of life. Balancing the water requirements of the environment, human needs, agriculture, recreation, tourism, and industry is a growing challenge as more people live, work, and play in the North Okanagan.

Water Stewardship Goals of the Regional Growth Strategy emphasize protection of water quantity and quality, mitigation of human impacts, water conservation, monitoring of both groundwater and surface water resources, and ongoing cooperation between all levels of government to ensure reasonable and consistent regulations related to water usage. Developing and implementing cost effective, efficient, and innovative methods of water conservation, reclaimed water use, liquid waste disposal, and monitoring of water sources and quality, are encouraged.

Greater Vernon Water (GVW) is an RDNO administered water utility supplying water to customers in the City of Vernon, the District of Coldstream, and parts of Electoral Areas “B” and “C”. GVW also supplies water to customers in Electoral Area “D” and bulk water to the Township of Spallumcheen. RDNO also manages community water utilities in Grindrod, Gunter- Ellison, Mabel Lake (at Kingfisher), Silver Star and Whitevale. Enderby, Armstrong, and Lumby are served by local government community water systems and there are also various small water utilities throughout the region which are not managed by local government. The majority of rural properties are serviced by on-site domestic groundwater wells and/or surface water sources.

How Are We Doing?

When asked their opinion of the quality of drinking water, on average, respondents to the 2013 Quality of Life survey rated it just below ‘good’ and indicated that the matter warranted somewhat more attention. The average rating of water quality of lakes and rivers was also between ‘fair’ and ‘good’, with respondents indicating somewhat more attention was needed.

Stewardship of our water resources is a shared responsibility between both water users and water providers. Summer irrigation volumes for agriculture and domestic uses are 2.5 times higher than the annual average use. Additionally, climate conditions have led to lower summer stream flows over the last 30 years. Local governments in the North Okanagan continue to work as partners and individually to raise awareness of the importance of water conservation and protection of water quality using a variety of media and methods which are both informative and motivating. Local residents, business sector, farmers, visitors and others are generally willing, if not eager to take necessary steps to protect our precious water resource. Initiatives such as the Xerindipity Garden in Vernon, and workshops such as ‘how to make a rain barrel’ provide hands-on opportunities for both learning and fun.

The GVW Master Water Plan, completed in 2012, is a detailed water utility study that reviews progress and provides direction for the next 40 years to ensure compliance with Provincial standards to safeguard health and to meet future water needs based on predicted growth. The Master Water Plan is the outcome of a partnership between RDNO, the City of Vernon, and the District of Coldstream in consultation with professional engineers and a Technical Advisory Committee comprised local government staff as well as representatives from the agricultural community and Interior Health. The Master Water Plan is a living document that continues to be updated by expert engineering analysis and current Okanagan water information and technology.

North Okanagan communities serviced by local government water systems have made strong progress towards improved monitoring of water usage with 100% of households, businesses, and agricultural operations in Vernon, Armstrong, Coldstream, and Lumby having water meters installed. Enderby is also doing well at over 97%. Furthermore, through system improvements and careful management, our local government water utilities achieved a significant decrease in water quality advisories from 11 to 1 between 2006 and 2016.

Greater Vernon Water is in the process of installing technology that will turn all of its customers’ water meters into smart water meters that can be read remotely. The utility reports that the change will cut costs and make meter readings more accurate.