Tackling an aging water system that is challenging water quality and supply will continue to be a priority for the West Bench area in 2012.
One option, that was rejected by West Bench voters in a 2010 borrowing referendum, seems to be back on the table. Voters had turned down receiving filtered water from the City of Penticton, which came at a higher cost than the West Bench building their own treatment plant.
Still, West Bench residents face the same two alternatives, build a standalone treatment system or buy into Penticton’s existing treatment infrastructure. Interior Health is striving for all communities to have the level of treatment that meets Canadian water guidelines by 2015. The West Bench water system is currently only filtered with chlorine and residents have been boiling their water since it tested poor on May 24.
“The RDOS has made a counter proposal to the City of Penticton, which includes a $3.6 million buy-in fee plus an annual bulk water fee,” said Michael Brydon, RDOS Area F director.
Brydon said under this proposal, but unlike the previously rejected extra territorial service, the RDOS would continue to own and maintain the West Bench water system including all pumps and meters.
“The decision on this proposal was postponed until after the election, but we hope to get an answer back from Penticton city council very early in the new year,” said Brydon.
In July, at the request of the West Bench Irrigation District’s board of trustees, the province officially dissolved the board and transferred responsibility for the West Bench water system to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.
Faulder, also part of Area F, has faced its own challenges with the water system.
“We had some setbacks with provincial funding for the Faulder system in 2011, which may scuttle an arrangement in which Faulder residents would buy filtered water from Summerland’s water treatment plant,” said Brydon.
While Brydon said sharing infrastructure has significant benefits for rate payers, the cost of the pipeline to Faulder makes this alternative more expensive than a standalone treatment system.
“Fortunately we had a significant aquifer recharge in 2011, which has bought us some time to explore every possible avenue, including lobbying the provincial government to help get the Summerland deal back on track.”
Brydon added that if those efforts fail, they still have significant grant funding for a standalone treatment system in Faulder. The area is also waiting to see if a prison will be built within the neighbourhood.