Good, clear drinking water prioritized by board

A basin-wide, source water protection strategy should be a priority of the new Okanagan Basin Water Board, members resolved Tuesday, at the first meeting since last fall’s civic election.

Board members expressed concerns about protection of the watershed for domestic users when few of the activities in them can be controlled by water utilities.

Chairman Brian Given commented, “We want good, clear drinking water for all residents.”

Board member Toby Pike noted that Interior Health policy is that water utilities should filter domestic water which comes from surface sources unless a source water protection plan is in place.

That level of water treatment is very expensive.

Board member Tom Siddon said the Integrated Land Management Bureau is a big problem for the OBWB because of its mandate to sell the currently-leased Crown-owned recreational lots on reservoirs in the Okanagan’s watershed; because of its interest in permitting ‘huge marinas’ on small lakes; and floating breakwaters; floating communities of houseboats; and condos on the lakeshore.

Because a new minister of lands was appointed last week to replace Stan Hagen, who died suddenly Jan. 20, the board voted to send a letter to new minister Ron Cantelon expressing its concerns about the proposal to sell the recreation lots.

Although Hagen had written to the board prior to his death, promising a two-year moratorium on the sales until hydrology studies could be completed, board members expressed concerns that the matter has not yet been resolved.

Lake Country James Baker commented, “It’s not just the question of whether we can raise the level of our dams, it’s development on those reservoirs. If sold, they could go from rustic cabins to big developments with septic systems along the shoreline.”

Board member Tom Siddon agreed that the new minister should be reminded of the board’s concerns and that, “We’re adamantly opposed to the sale of those lots.”

He questioned why 300,000 people’s right to clean water should be compromised by the desires of a few dozen cabin owners.

The board voted to send a letter to the minister, along with a package of background information; and to send a letter to the Southern Interior Local Government Association asking for support against the sale of the provincial leases lots located on upper elevation Okanagan drinking water reservoirs.

The upper level reservoirs are required to capture melting snow for use later in the summer when the valley dries up. Instead, the board would like to see the province retain ownership and control of the lands around reservoirs, a moratorium on further leases and gradual retirement of existing leases.

Then, a land act reserve should be placed on those lands, restricting their use to protect water supplies, read a letter for SILGA members.