Parts of West Kelowna have had safe drinking water for just three months and 11 days so far this year.
But light is at the end of the tunnel.
Next year, once the new Rose Valley water treatment plant is up and running, residents serviced by its system will say goodbye to prolonged water advisories.
While water advisories on the Rose Valley system have always been routine during the spring snowmelt and early summer, having them stretch well into the fall is usual.
City of West Kelowna general manager of infrastructure Allen Fillion says they have been noticing the impacts of climate change on the Rose Valley reservoir
“We have a biologist that we work with that has been monitoring that lake for 40 plus years,” Fillion said. “There's definitely changes in water quality and more algae blooms.”
While this summer was not as hot as last year, overnight temperature lows were elevated. As a result, water temperatures in the reservoir were quite a bit warmer than usual.
“Warmer water then allows a better opportunity for bacteria and the like to grow,” Fillion said.
Water exiting the Rose Valley reservoir is not treated, beyond chlorination, before it enters the taps of households on the system that was originally designed for agriculture.
The $75 million water treatment plant is state-of-the-art and will result in clean, clear water flowing from taps — much like the Powers Creek system that treats the water for Glenrosa.
“This is our last year of having any significant water quality advisories. So we're really looking forward to that as all the residents are,” Fillion said.
While crews are working to complete the treatment plant, Fillion says they have not been resting on that fact this year and have been trying to mitigate this year’s challenges with the water quality.
“When we started having these challenges, we added capacity to our chlorine system, we started flushing out the system or wherever we could, we've continued to work with our biologists on any treatments for the reservoir. It's just been a challenging year.”
He said crews have been out on the lake treating the water to try to get a handle on algae blooms.
Fillion notes that the Rose Valley watershed is blessed with ample quantities of water, and technology will deal with quality issues. That is better than the alternative, whereas some other BC Interior communities have great quality water but not enough of it — something that can’t be solved with a treatment plant.
It is hoped the new plant will be operational in spring 2023. The new Rose Valley water service area will include the systems of Lakeview, Pritchard/Sunnyside and West Kelowna Estates, servicing about 18,000 residents. All those systems remain under a water quality advisory.