There is no question that the safety of the public water supply in British Columbia has been under scrutiny in recent years. The tragic events of Walkerton, Ontario seriously undermined public trust in the water supply and initiated reviews of the water regulations in provincial capitals across Canada.
B.C. was no exception. Provincial authority governing water resources consists of a matrix of ministries and regulations. There is no lead agency responsible for potable water from source to tap in the province. A number of ministries and agencies with overlapping jurisdictions and mandates regulate the local water purveyor. Current legislation and provincial government policy for drinking water, although recently revised, remains piecemeal and haphazard. Provincial health agencies set the standards for potable water yet have no mechanism or responsibility to fund the expensive water treatment infrastructure needed for local government to comply with their requirements.
In the wake of a highly critical report on source water protection by the Auditor General in 1999 and the more recent Walkerton Tragedy in May of 2000, the Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks presented the Drinking Water Protection Act (DWPA) to the legislature in the spring of 2001. The DWPA was amended in late 2002 and the Drinking Water Protection Regulation (DWPR) was passed in May of 2003, bringing the act into effect.
For SEKID the challenges to improve water quality for both aesthetic and public health reasons have been an on-going struggle.
While the Agricultural Land Reserve protects valuable agricultural land from suburban development, at the same time it prevents the higher density growth and population the district needs to raise revenues to fund water quality improvements. The technical challenges to provide a large rural area with high irrigation demand and low ratepayer base with a safe supply of potable water are significant. A full review of treatment options was completed in 2007 and the board chose to develop a separate groundwater supply for potable water. A key part of that decision was the district already had three high quality wells that could be separated from the existing distribution system and developed into a separate domestic water supply.
This was one of the most affordable options available but the costs are still significant. Consequently, the district has actively lobbied the provincial government for years to obtain grant funding to help subsidize the cost of the new system. Follow this link for more information on the district's Water Quality Improvement Program.