Local Issues: Five or One – Governance

Governing is hard.  Governance can be thought of as the way in which the will of the people is made effective through the decisions of government (UN).  Politics can be defined as “the activities of the government, members of law-making organizations, or people who try to influence the way a country [or other entity] is governed (cambridge).”  Politics is an inevitable part of governance whenever decisions can impact people differently, and this is almost always the case.  The challenge of good governance is figuring out how to effectively ensure that the will of the people is made effective in the face of political realities.

Winston Churchill is credited with saying

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.… (Langworth, 2008).

We rely on a democratic process to grant decision making authority over government decisions.  Those who gain the right to exercise that authority do so through a political process, offering the voters something of a plan for what they hope to accomplish while in government.  Since there are typically only a few candidates or parties on offer, these plans seldom perfectly match the preferences of any voters.  The winning candidates platform therefore is more like the least undesirable option than something the community wants implemented as is.  Candidates who appreciate the dilemma this creates will not emphasize ‘doing what they promised’, but rather focus on understanding what is the will of the people on both an issue by issue basis and in the overall direction for the community.  In the case of our city, our elected members deserve credit for choosing drinking water as a priority after a consultation process, rather than as I incorrectly asserted was an election issue.

For Kelowna, we periodically go through a guided community consultation process to update our official community plan.  From the city website, the “… Official Community Plan (OCP) provides a policy framework for Council by addressing issues such as housing, transportation, infrastructure, parks, economic development and the natural and social environment.”  A significant amount of council’s time is spent dealing with development proposals that are not consistent with the OCP, with the proponent asking council to provide them an exception.  We believe that this right to appeal is an important part of our democracy, and the public part of council meetings are a place we provide for the community to comment on these appeals.  Unfortunately, this part of the process is inclined to be biased against the broad interests of the community.

Where council is considering a decision, such as approving a land use change, those who have the most at stake will put in the most effort to influence the decision in their favour.  Consider as an example building a boardwalk from City Park to Gyro Beach at the high water mark along Okanagan Lake.  There are a bit under 100 parcels with lakefront that would see a boardwalk between their back yard and the lake, should such a proposal go ahead. These residents would have their privacy reduced, and would argue that their security was also impacted, and that these effects would manifest as a reduction in their property values.  There is at best mixed evidence for such property value reductions, as properties near pathways are often found to command higher prices (Hobden et al, 2004).  There are presently three waterfront properties listed for sale, at an average asking price of a little over $3 million, along this part of the waterfront.  If we imagine that these properties would loose 1% in value as a result of this pathway, then the average home owner along the lakefront would be worse off by $30,000 should a pathway go in.  It is therefore not surprising that these land owners would be very active in their efforts to stop such a proposal, attending public meetings, lobbying council members, etc.  Taking those approximately 100 properties together, they would collectively loose about $3,000,000 in property value if the boardwalk goes in.

On the other side are those who would enjoy the pathway.  Imagine that the average Kelowna resident would use this pathway twice per year, and do so instead of going to a movie, meaning that their time on the boardwalk is worth around $30 per year.  With about 120,000 residents in Kelowna, that works out to the pathway generating a benefit of $3,600,000 per year to Kelowna residents. Notice that with these hypothetical numbers, the value to Kelowna residents of this boardwalk per year is greater than the total value lost to the property owners.  Investing $3,000,000 to generate an annual benefit of $3,600,000 is a pretty good investment. However, for the average Kelowna resident, is that $30 benefit enough to get them to keep up to date on what is going on in the city, attend public meetings and council meetings, etc.?  For many it won’t be.  Therefore, a public process around a decision like this will invariably give extra weight to those most affected, and there is a pretty good chance that the option which is best for the community is not the one that will be chosen.

My experience of most people who work for the city or have put themselves forward for office is that they genuinely want to do what is best for the city.  Most are also not naive about the pressures I have described.  However, they are human, and the political pressures, the pressures to make decisions quickly, the limited resources to carefully study the impacts of proposals, the limited resources for enforcement to ensure compliance, etc., means that decisions made by the city will not always be consistent with what is best for the people of the city.  I have the utmost respect for the efforts of both city staff and our elected members, but effort is not the same thing as outcome, and I think when we make changes, such as reorganizing the way that water is managed in this city, we need to consider what the best decision process will be going forward.  It isn’t obvious to me that putting all decisions about water under the control of city council is ultimately the way to make the best decisions about water.

There are two issues that stand out in the debate, protecting the health of Mission Creek and protecting the interests of agriculture.  At present, the irrigation districts play a large role in both of these areas.  Mission creek and its tributaries are important water sources, and therefore need to be protected, and the irrigation districts are only responsible for a single service, water, with agriculture being a key user group.  The city has clearly stated that it will protect Mission Creek and the interests of agriculture (castanet).  I think we need to consider what governance arrangements are best to protect these interests.

Cities do not typically deliver irrigation water, and irrigation districts do not typically deliver potable water to households.  In Alberta, only recognized irrigators have the right to vote as members of the irrigation district (Irrigation Districts Act). This ensures that decisions made prioritize irrigation needs.  Arrangements are similar elsewhere.  Rights to irrigation water are held either by the irrigators themselves with the district as an entity providing a service (delivering water) or held by the district, with control of the district vested with the irrigators.  Should something similar be set up for irrigators in the Mission Creek watershed?  I.e., should the rights to irrigation water be vested with the individual irrigators, and then the city be contractually obligated to deliver those irrigators water in volume and seniority consistent with those licence rights?  Or should a single irrigation district, the Kelowna Irrigation District, be created that holds all the agricultural licences and is responsible for delivering irrigation water?  That entity could then enter into a contractual agreement that in the event of a drought, water is supplied to the city in exchange for a payment to the district.  Such contracts exist between irrigation districts and municipal water utilities in California (Tomkins et al).  Something like this would give security to agricultural water users in a way that would not be as easily subject to the pressures faced by the city.

Protecting Mission Creek is a divided responsibility.  The city is subject to provincial and federal laws, and to the expressed wishes of the citizens of the city.  Resources for monitoring and enforcement in the upper watershed are limited.  In the lower watershed, were most of us live, there are some great things being done.  One example is the Mission Creek Restoration Initiative.  The Mission Creek Greenway is one of the gems of our city.  However, are we investing as much in protecting an enhancing Mission Creek as we should, or are those same forces that would make it challenging to move forward with a waterfront boardwalk also making it difficult to achieve that level of investment in the creek consistent with what is best for all the citizens of Kelowna.  Are there ways to restructure the governance of the watershed so that the protection and enhancement of the creek is further prioritized?

One interesting approach to this is being tried in New Zealand, where a river has been given the rights of a person (Smith, 2016).  Two trustees, one from the local iwi indigenous community, are tasked with speaking on behalf of the best interest of the Whanganui river.  In effect, the river, and thereby the watershed, has rights.  Such an arrangement may give voice to those nonhuman entities that cannot vote in municipal elections.  Would something similar be a way to ensure that the interests of Mission Creek are protected?

Should we develop a Water Sustainability Plan for the Kelowna area, something that is possible under the relatively new Water Sustainability Act?  Such a plan could address the unique needs of this watershed, including protecting a share of the water for agriculture and for the environment, and be given the force of law.  City decisions that impact on Mission Creek would then be subject to the watershed sustainability plan.

We seem to be moving forward with significant changes to the way that water is governed here in the Kelowna area.  I am happy that there are discussions of the relative merits and risks going on, and even as I have many questions, I do not see the city – staff or elected representatives – trying to do anything other than what is best for the people of the city.  However, there are pressures that make it challenging to achieve what is best.  I think given the significance of the change we are contemplating, we should take the time to come up with a way of governing our watershed that has the best chance of protecting the interests of all who are connected to that water.

  • Langworth, Richard. Churchill by himself: The definitive collection of quotations. PublicAffairs, 2011.
  • Hobden, David W., Gary E. Laughton, and Katherine E. Morgan. “Green space borders—a tangible benefit? Evidence from four neighbourhoods in Surrey, British Columbia, 1980–2001.” Land Use Policy 21.2 (2004): 129-138.
  • Tomkins, C. D., Weber, T. A., Freyberg, D. L., Sweeney, J. L., & Thompson, B. H. (2008). Managing Water Supply Uncertainty: Option Contracts and Short-Term Water Transfers in California. Policy Brief, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University.
  • Smith, James L. “I, River?: New materialism, riparian non‐human agency and the scale of democratic reform.” Asia Pacific Viewpoint (2016).

Local Issues: Five or One – Mea Culpa, Me Paenitet

“Mea culpa, me paenitet”, which is Latin for “my fault, I am sorry”.  In my previous post I asserted that the amalgamation of the water utilities was put forward as an issue during the last municipal election, as a strategic political move designed to gain votes.  I received a reply from the city pointing out that I was wrong.  I am grateful for having this error pointed out, and do not want my error to distract from what I believe are some serious questions that should be addressed before the proposal suggested by the value planning exercise is implemented.  I was wrong, and I apologize.

I did spend some time looking into the events that did transpire.  Here is something of a timeline.

2006 – Provincial policy statement on improvement districts
Improvement districts are a legacy of the early development of the province. Their services are best delivered by municipalities or regional districts, and the province favours the dissolution of improvement districts and the assumption of their services by municipalities or regional districts. To that end, it will continue to provide more favourable financial opportunities only to municipalities and regional districts.  This has been the evolving direction of provincial policy since regional districts were first created decades earlier.

2010-01-12 – Minister’s letter (referenced in KIWSP)
In response to lobbying from the four utilities other than the city, the minister issues a letter setting out conditions under which they would be flexible with respect to funding in relation to the need for amalgamation.  These were:

  • Best-Lowest Cost solutions,
  • Achievement of Public Health Outcomes,
  • Agricultural Interests Maintained.

2010-09-15 – Memorandum of understanding between five utilities (referenced in KIWSP)
The five utilities sign a memorandum of understanding that sets out the terms agreed to in order to move forward and develop a plan consistent with the requirements of the ministry.

2012-09-21 – Kelowna integrated water supply plan
Plan developed under terms of agreement set out in memorandum of understanding delivered.

2012-10-25 – SEKID ratepayers reject borrowing for system upgrades
The voters in the South East Kelowna Irrigation District (SEKID) rejected a proposal to borrow money so that system upgrades could be made to meet Interior Health requirements. The board chair states that “… the community is in favour of the project but is not willing to move forward without government funding assistance.” SEKID is therefore unable to comply with Interior Health requirements on their operating permit.

2012-12-09 – Memorandum of understanding to develop implementation plan
The five utilities sign a memorandum of understanding under which they will develop an implementation plan for the KIWSP.  Under the MOU, the parties agree to allocate scare provincial grant money to the highest priority projects.  Given that such money was not available to the irrigation districts directly, all such money would have to pass through the city.  This was clearly described to city council when their approval was sought for the city to sign on to the MOU (Report to Council, 2012-11-08).

2013-03-13 – Kelowna integrated water supply plan – implementation plan
All five water utilities sign onto an implementation plan for the previously developed integration plan.  The implementation plan is approved by the province, and would be used to prioritize capital expenditures and financing of those expenditures across the five utilities (see also RWW).

2015-04 – SEKID water quality improvement program
SEKID develops a plan to bring their system into compliance with Interior Health requirements without borrowing money.  Without grant funding, which would have had to come through the city, SEKID voters would face a significant rate increase.  At the conclusion of this project, the SEKID system would not need major capital upgrades for some time.  SEKID is the last of the three irrigation districts to move forward with implementing plans to upgrade their water to provincial standards without receiving funding support from the province through the city.

2015-04-12 – Kelowna citizen survey
Results of a survey of Kelowna residents conducted by Ipsos Ried are released.  The results are based on 301 telephone interviews, with a reported accuracy of plus or minus 5.7%, nineteen times out of twenty.  The top priority identified by the respondents when they are asked to compare a list of priorities is drinking water, which was the chosen priority six percent more often than the next most frequent winner, encouraging a diversity of housing at different price points.  The survey did not ask about the preferred organization for the delivery of services like water.

2015-09 – Kelowna council priorities
Based at least partly on the results of the citizen survey, city council singles out drinking water as its top priority.  Then begins messaging to the effect that Kelowna provides high quality, dependable water to those it serves and that same quality should be available to all throughout the city.  To implement this priority, its first action will be to conduct a value planning exercise to review the 2012 integration plan.

2015-09 – Amalgamation not the goal
Speaking about the council priorities, Mayor Basran states that ““The city doesn’t want to take over water boards, This is about providing good quality drinking water.”

2016-02-08 – Amalgamation and city control is the goal
As part of the state of the city address Mayor Basran delivered to the chamber of commerce, he made it clear that council believes that the delivery of all water services in the city should be under the control of city council.  He argues that citizens would not stand for five different fire departments with five different fire chiefs, all funded differently, and that therefore they will see the logic in having only one water provider for the city of Kelowna.  New stories tend to reflect perspective that irrigation districts are protecting their turf in the face of what would be best for the city as a whole.   In reference to the provincial policy to not fund improvement districts and to aim for their long run dissolution, the mayor is quoted as saying ““So, we’re just doing what it appears the province wants us to do.”

2016-05-11 – Letter to SEKID voters
The city sends a letter directly to those served by SEKID arguing in favor of amalgamation of the water utilities.  In the letter the city states that the aquifer SEKID proposes to use to supply water for its system upgrades cannot actually supply the water, thereby undermining SEKIDs credibility as an organization that can effectively meet the water supply needs of those it serves.  Through the value planning exercise conducted later, SEKIDs assessment of the groundwater supply it was proposing to use was vindicated.

2016-11-14 – Value planning statement of principles
The province announces that the five utilities have agreed to a statement of principles related to the undertaking of a value planning review of the 2012 plan.  The value planning workshop, the essential element of the process, took place between the 9th and 13th of January, 2017.  The workshop is an opportunity for outside experts together with local experts and key stakeholders to brainstorm new approaches to address the issues that the 2012 plan was developed to address.  The process is guided by terms of reference that describe what is to be considered and what is not to be considered.  In this case, the process considered only technical solutions that could occur if such a plan could be developed without having to honor the service areas of each water provider separately.  Issues of asset ownership, governance, water licences, etc. were not to be considered.  Black Mountain Irrigation District, Rutland Waterworks District and Glenmore Ellison Irrigation District opted not to participate.

2017-02-28 – Value planning final report released
The report of the consultants is made public.  It suggests that the integrated solution that was developed would save approximately $100 million in capital costs, relative to the 2012 plan.  This is about three quarters of the costs of the 2012 plan.  Effective use of this infrastructure requires relying on Mission Creek to supply about three quarters of the water supply for Kelowna residents.  If this can be achieved, then pumping cost from lake sources can be reduced.  If the water quality from Mission Creek continues to be sufficient to satisfy health standards, then filtration costs can be deferred until such time as Mission Creek water quality changes or health regulations change.  The plan identifies an interesting solution which, if it can be implemented as planned, would save both capital and operations costs in the delivery of water to Kelowna residents.  The plan was conceived as if all five utilities were partners, even though three of the five did not participate.

As someone who has been listening to the conversations about water in our city and valley for a decade now, it is quite apparent that like everywhere else, politics and water are intimately connected.  I was wrong in my recollection of how the politics has manifest itself, and am grateful to city staff for calling me out and giving me the impetus to put together this timeline.  I regret any confusion this has caused both to people associated with the city and anyone else who has read my posts.

I hope that my error does not distract from what I think are the important questions, questions which people much better qualified than I should answer.  These questions include:

  1. How much water can Mission Creek reliably supply, in the face of climate change, and with respect to environmental flow needs?  We have expertise in the valley that can contribute to modeling the likely climate change impacts on Mission Creek, and understanding how that will affect agriculture and environmental needs.
  2. How will an integrated Kelowna water utility be governed?  The city wants all water governance to be accountable to city council.  However, there are other models.  Los Angeles county has more than 200 water utilities, not necessarily corresponding with municipal boundaries (UCLA).  Metro Vancouver manages the north shore sources and provides treated water to the municipalities who are responsible for final distribution to households.  Fire services (alluded to by the mayor when arguing for cities taking over the utilities) are also separate by municipalities, with procedures in place to support each other when needed.
  3. How will agricultural interests be protected?  What does this mean?  Will agriculture be guaranteed priority access to that volume of water specified in the current agricultural licences – i.e. like an agricultural water reserve?  Will they be guaranteed the same security as they have now?  Cities typically do not manage irrigation water.  Rather, irrigation districts manage irrigation water, and may enter into agreements with cities to supply bulk water, and to be part of a drought plan should cities nearby be unable to meet needs during a drought.
  4. What can go wrong?  If the assumptions behind the plan are wrong, what does that do to the cost savings?  Climate change impacts, resolutions of water rights for indigenous peoples, …  How sensitive is this plan, in terms of cost savings, to everything working out right?  The value planning report does not offer any such sensitivity analysis.

The city is hoping for a significant amount of provincial money to support the initial phase of this project.  Getting that money amounts to recovering for Kelowna tax money that we as residents of Kelowna pay to Ottawa and Victoria.  I am certainly in favor of our city getting a just share of those tax dollars for projects that ensure we are not suffering relative to other Canadians and British Columbians.  I do hope that if the province does commit to supporting us in addressing water issues in Kelowna, that it does not tie our hands so tightly to this specific proposal that we cannot do the research required to ensure it is the right plan.

Local Issues: Five or One – Politics

Politics Trumps Everything

As an economist, I teach my students how to use economic models to represent the workings of the economy.  Given assumptions that some people do question, those models let us identify the best way to organize activities in the economy.  It still amazes me, and hopefully sometimes amazes my students, that such often simple models can provide powerful insights into how the economy works.  However, I also repeatedly remind my students that no matter how sound the logic, no matter how many economists agree, politics trumps everything.

I was recently interviewed by CBC radio, and was hoping to explore some of the questions I have about the value planning solution to our water system challenges. However, the conversation focused almost exclusively on why three of our city water utilities are not participating, what it would take to get them to participate, and what could be done if they refuse.  The tenor of the questioning was that the outcome of the value planning exercise is the right plan, and the barrier to its implementation is the irrigation districts.  I think there are some serious issues that need to be resolved before it is even clear whether or not this is the right plan, and below are the notes I prepared for the interview.  However, politics trumps everything, and my reflections after the interview turn to that.

In 2012 the Kelowna Joint Water Committee completed a plan to integrate the five major water systems in Kelowna.  All five utilities were part of the plan, and the provincial government was in support.  Then some of our local city politicians saw a political opportunity.  Canadians are passionate about water, and a politician rallying against the variations in water quality across the city would easily get attention and likely get support.  For someone looking to win an election, this was a shrewd move.  However, it also amounted to sacrificing for political gain people and organizations that have a long history in this community.  The tenor of the conversation since the election, and certainly the undertone of the interview questions, was that the water utilities who are not participating are selfishly protecting their turf in the face of what is obviously the right way to go.

The four utilities other than the city deliver a single service, water.  They are managed under the direction of a board of trustees elected from among those they serve.  Their job is to look out for the interest of those they serve.  If we believe in democracy, then we should respect the autonomy of these organizations, whether or not we like their choices.  Democracy is not about low cost service delivery, and democracy has not failed if the voters decide to undertake something other than the cheapest option.

I think it is useful to think about how things would unfold if the city were trying to absorb four private, for profit water utilities instead of four improvement districts.  Before anything was done, there would be a negotiation on the financial terms whereby the city would acquire the assets of the private utilities.  If one of the utilities refused, then the city could seek to expropriate the assets of the private utility.  However, this would trigger a process to determine what fair compensation for those assets would be, and that compensation is usually more than fair market value.  The reason for that being a recognition that if these assets were only worth fair market value to the owner, the owner would be offering them for sale.  Like a private utility, the improvement districts own assets.  Those assets were purchased and maintained using funds collected from the ratepayers, and those assets are set up to provide valuable services to those ratepayers into the future.  The current situation essentially amounts to the city saying ‘give us control of your assets, and trust us that we will treat your ratepayers fairly when we get around to figuring out what that will look like.’  I suspect that if the city approached the utilities to negotiate a deal to acquire the assets and fairly take care of the staff and fairly compensate the ratepayers, solutions could be found.

The fair treatment of staff, and of the trustees and ratepayers of the utilities is an important issue.  As a mid-sized, rapidly growing city, there are compelling arguments about how the overall evolution of the city can be better accomplished if the city is responsible for all important services.  This is independent of whether the results of the value planning exercise are in fact the right plan.  However, this great city that our mayor likes to champion got here through the hard work of many people, and the irrigation districts were central to that.  The process that has unfolded since the last city election has not recognized the dedication and hard work of the people who work for and serve the water utilities.  This began with the repudiation of all the efforts that went into the 2012 integration plan, and then multiplied when the city opted to use its financial leverage to secure its goals, rather than working with the utilities to try and smooth out the divisions created through the election.  I hope we can get back to a more cooperative approach.

Politics trumps everything, and politics never stops.  Going forward, the city is hoping to secure almost $45 million in provincial grant money, in order to implement the first phase of the project described in the value planning exercise.  I don’t know how tied this grant is to the specific plan.  If it is, then we may be politically locking ourselves into a plan that might not in fact be the best plan.  If we spend $45 million to take water from Mission Creek and deliver it to residences in the South East Kelowna Irrigation District (SEKID) and the South Okanagan Mission Irrigation District (SOMID), that money is gone.  We don’t get it back if it turns out that Mission Creek cannot supply the water we need it to.  How tied is this money to the results of the value planning exercise?

If we build this, and then find out it was not as good an idea as we originally thought, will we walk away and start again, or will we insist in continuing with the plan.  It is hard for any of us to accept that we made a big mistake.  It will be very hard for a politician to say he or she made a $45 million dollar mistake.  We could end up spending a lot more money for storage to secure fish flows, to negotiate an arrangement with the West Bank First Nation, and may have to back out of the commitment to supply agricultural water consistent with the present water licences.  By spending $45 million now, will we end up going down a more costly path to avoid admitting that a mistake was made?  To my students, I say sunk costs are sunk, and why they were spend in the first place does not matter.  However, politics trumps everything, and admitting expensive mistakes does not have good political optics.  I hope that the conditions on the money we get from the provincial government have the space for us to complete the careful research and planning that is needed, and to follow a different plan if that research does not support what we currently think is the best idea.

My notes prepared for the interview:

  • What the plan is:
    • An exploration of what water supply in Kelowna could look like if it was managed as a single utility, and how much it might cost to implement such a single system, relative to 2012 plan.
      • fundamentally, it envisions one water utility, rather than five major utilities and a collection of minor ones.
  • What they found:
    • Using Mission Creek for a large part of Kelowna’s water supply could be more cost effective than the 2012 integration plan developed by the five main utilities.
      • use gravity for delivery, cost effective compared to pumping.
      • use high quality source water, avoid/defer cost of filtration.
      • balance with lake, have two high quality sources that can switch between, increases security.
  • What the plan isn’t (not in the mandate of the study):
    • A detailed engineering study that sets out the specifics of how to implement plan.
      • cost estimate is based on numbers in 2012 study, not new work specific to proposal.
    • A detailed assessment of the capacity of Mission Creek to supply about 75% of Kelowna’s water.
      • no modeling of the watershed and impacts of climate change.
    • A detailed exploration of the water licencing and regulatory requirements to implement the plan
      • environmental flow needs
      • commitments to agriculture
    • A detailed plan to ensure that all water users are better off being part of one water utility than they are now as part of separate utilities.
      • plan recognizes that ratepayers have payed for assets and acknowledges that equity would require some compensation to ratepayers of the utilities for the value assets that are taken over by the city and the value of the services that those assets will provide to the city.
      • there has been no agreement about this matter before this planning exercise, which may be part of reason that three utilities didn’t participate.
    • A clear plan to ensure that there is sufficient water for agriculture now and into the future.
      • plan recognized importance, has some suggestions about how it could be done in terms of infrastructure, but doesn’t do much else
    • A plan for the governance of the new water utility and the transition from five utilities to one utility.
      • describes it as an important thing that should be done.
  • What the immediate action item is:
    • Spend about $68 million to supply water from Mission Creek to SEKID and an east-west main to deliver Mission Creek water to the city.
      • this is as an alternative to spending about $23 million for wells and system separation to achieve water quality improvements in SEKID.
  • Longer term items:
    • Different alignment of pipes, location of pumping stations, etc. than in 2012 integration plan.
      • to enable switching between Mission Creek and Okanagan lake as main sources.
    • Increased storage in Mission Creek, to provide capacity in line with supply objectives for Mission creek.
  • To implement plan, need:
    • All water utilities on side.
    • Certainty that Mission Creek can be used as set out in the plan
      • actual water that is and will be available
      • regulatory issues – environmental flow needs, etc.
      • licence issues – large share of licenced water on Mission Creek is supposed to be protected for agriculture
      • ability to build storage, given some of Mission Creek watershed is inside provincial parks.
  • My key question:
    • Should we spend $45 million more on an infrastructure project when we don’t know if the larger plan can be implemented.
      • can’t get that $45 million back if we can’t implement the plan.
      • will this infrastructure be worthwhile even if rest of plan cannot be implemented?
    • Why the panic now?
      • federal and provincial granting programs come and go, miss this one, can get the next one.
      • implementation of plan is contingent on future granting opportunities
  • The grand story.
    • province wants to get rid of improvement districts
      • desires that dissolution of improvement districts and integration with cities or regional districts be voluntary
      • reason, an inconvenience to local government land use planning and coordinated service delivery
      • local government cannot be ‘single desk’ for approving development if there is another local government responsible for some services.
    • province refuses to provide improvement districts with access to funds that are available to cities and regional districts
      • ‘forces’ improvement districts to ‘voluntarily’ join cities or regional districts when they face costs which are ‘too high’.
      • RWW, BMID, GEID not in financial situation where service quaility currently requires large investments
      • SEKID is.
      • City could have followed 2012 plan, which would have meant merger of utilities within city would be many years or decades in future.
      • City opted to leave SEKID hanging, without access to funds, until they agreed to participate in planning for merger into single utility.
    • desire of province / city to get rid of improvement districts about overall land use planning and service delivery, not specifically about drinking water quality or saving money on water delivery costs.

Some other points:

  • Water Sustainability Act with respect to agricultural licences:

    26(5) Despite subsection (1) (g), a decision maker may not (a) authorize a change in water use purpose for dedicated agricultural water except to another qualifying agricultural use,

  • Mission creek is ‘fully recorded’ and has licences totaling just over 35,250 ML per year.
    • almost 20,000 ML is agricultural water licenced to BMID – if WSA followed, not available for waterworks
    • if transfer waterworks from GEID and SEKID to mission creek, and ag water from mission creek to GEID and SEKID, get almost 5,000 ML more waterworks water on Mission creek.
    • need about 20,000 ML of licence capacity to meet 75% of current non-agricultural demand for system.
    • total waterworks licences, with transfer from GEID and SEKID are about 10,000 ML.
      • there is not enough licence space for proposed 75% supply from Mission Creek, if ag licences are to be respected, as set out in WSA.
      • province could reassess and issue new licences, but that does not change hydrology and increases risk that there will be supply challenges in dry years. New licences would have lowest priority date.
      • plan proposes new storage, which may enable new licences. However, cheapest (and highest quality) storage expansion is inside provincial park.
      • Net result, may have to pump more from lake than set out in plan, and therefore would not realize all of suggested cost saving.
  • Without BMID, GEID and RWW on side, when can plan actually be implemented?
  • If Mission creek cannot be used as set out in plan, is it still worth using Mission Creek water for SEKID instead of wells?
    • Wells are cheaper.
    • Can’t get money back for more expensive Mission Creek use if it turns out Mission Creek cannot be used the way set out in plan.
  • Instead of spending money on integrating system now, should we be considering a Water Sustainability Plan for the Mission Creek and nearby watersheds that enter Okanagan Lake in Kelowna?
    • bring all stakeholders together, set out objectives, and then develop integration plan consistent with overall community objectives for entire watershed?
    • Water sustainability plans have provisions for an agricultural water reserve, which may provide extra security for agriculture into the future