With the recent and ongoing boil water warning in Windermere, it’s safe to say the Windermere water system is something most residents are probably wondering about.
After members in the Windermere community voted a resounding no to a proposed upgrade to the Windermere community water system last year, a new round of surveys and public consultations recently concluded with a trio of public meetings in order to discuss survey results and gather further feedback from the community at large.
“Really, the purpose is to have community discussions on a grassroots level of what [Windermere residents] value in their water system and what they want to see in any new water system,” said Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) electoral Area F Director Wendy Booth.
A water quality advisory has been in place for the Windermere Community Water System since 2006, as Interior Health (IH) has placed an objective on the system to reach a certain standard by 2015. Because the current drinking water source for the system is Lake Windermere, weather changes, spring runoff, recreational activity and other factors can directly impact the water’s turbidity. Turbidity occurs when particles are floating in the water, and parasites and bacteria can attach themselves to these particles, causing an increased risk of illness. Filtration is required to reduce turbidity levels prior to treatment and so the RDEK, on behalf of the Windermere community, is searching for the best solution to the ongoing water quality issues.
“I would want to see Windermere get properly treated drinking water, but I still don’t know how that’s going to happen,” Booth said. “That’s not really up for me to decide, it’s a community decision.”
RDEK staff received 180 responses to their water system survey, and the feedback on a few issues were nearly unanimous, while on others was very diverse. What most respondents seemed to agree on were two main aspects: that the water quality was their number one concern, and that they feel strongly in favour of a public water system as opposed to a private system. On other issues, such as price, capacity and location of any new facility, opinions were varied.
“It’s very diverse,” Booth said. “There’s certainly a common theme that the current water quality isn’t working; however, coming to a solution, there are diverse themes on certain areas.”
One solution raised at the final meeting by a resident was the possibility of drilling underground for a new water source. The benefits of such a system would be many in terms of water quality and treatment, but as staff and other residents cautioned, drilling for water is essentially a significantly pricey gamble, as there are no assurances that a new water source will even be found. Another option was to build a new treatment facility, potentially in the old fire hall, but as Booth pointed out, a final decision is still a ways away.
“Our job here is to take what we’ve heard and give it to the technical experts,” Booth said. “Give them their marching orders and find out what is realistically cost-effective that we can do.”
Although the final method of consent, whether it be a vote or petition, has not been determined yet, there will only be one final option on the table at that time. For now, it’s up to RDEK staff to assess the different options and make recommendations based in part on community priorities. As for the boil water notice, Booth said a similar notice lasted for about a month last year and that notices will be distributed when the water is safe for drinking again.