Some risk ahead for Kelowna's water supply

Dire water outlook forecast

The planning manager for Kelowna's utilities is painting a less than rosy outlook for Kelowna's water supply.

While Rod MacLean says the drinking water the city's supplies to its customers is not at risk, there is some risk to the non-potable water supply provided to the agriculture industry.

"Water is a finite resource," MacLean told council, "and we are all hoping we see rain and optimal growing conditions in 2024.

"We are in the fourth year of a drought and we are simply not seeing things align. We are seeing dry conditions and the combined effects of this are relatively serious.

"Spring conditions will set the stage for the rest of the year. Hopefully it's going to rain but I don't count on that, we don't count on that."

MacLean says they are assuming the worst and in order to prepare, are placing Stage 1 water restrictions for both potable and non-potable water users.

"It's time to start the dialogue and education," he says.

"Penalties will not be the solution for battling a drought. There needs to be a sense of urgency in 2024."

Stage 1 restrictions for urban customers are always in effect MacLean reminded council. That includes odd and even watering regiments with no watering allowed on Mondays.

However, he says the recommendations, which council give initial approval to, include restricting all agricultural users to the water allotments they have for the first time.

MacLean says the city is taking these steps now in order to advise the agricultural community there is a supply shortage and advise them we can provide them their allotment but no more.

The city does have the ability, according to MacLean to turn off the taps for those who abuse the allotment.

He says they are talking with those agricultural customers who went over their yearly allotment to help them better manage their supply.

The city is also offering to do on-site system analysis at no charge.

While council was unanimous in it's support of measures being offered, Coun. Mohini Singh, a vocal supporter of the agriculture industry said she has concerns about water restrictions being imposed on the industry.

"This has created a sense of worry in the farming community as word spreads because water is absolutely important," said Singh.

"The farming community has gone through some very, very tough times and still are. Farmers aren't able to make it these days and I just want us to take that into account and be sensitive to the fact nobody wants to abuse the system.

"I want to ensure they can get on with the business of farming and we can get on with preserving water and protecting our water source."

Singh also suggested the recommendations endorsed by council be forwarded to the city's Agricultural Advisory Committee for comment.

Those comments could come back to council in late May when MacLean is scheduled to return to update council on initial progress from the restrictions.

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