The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) board of directors voted at their most recent meeting to ask the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to change the scope of an already-approved grant for Windermere water system upgrades to allow for reservoir construction.
The directors also decided at their Friday, November 7th meeting to ask the ministry for a one-year extension on the grant from the Build Canada Fund, which is set to expire on March 31st. The board has already approved the re-allocation of Community Works Funds for expanding Windermeres reservoir capacity.
The RDEK has made the commitment to continue moving this project forward, with the ultimate goal of providing the community of Windermere compliant drinking water that meets Interior Health drinking water guidelines, said RDEK Area F director Wendy Booth.
The proposed new reservoir will be required no matter what option is finally settled on for the Windermere water upgrades. It will provide extra capacity, in addition to the current reservoir, to help meet Windermeres water needs. The current reservoir (which is northeast of Highway 93/95 on the provincial Ministry of Transportations gravel pit near Windermere) will remain in service, but it alone no longer provides enough water for the community, according to RDEK project supervisor Elizabeth Ahlgren.
It is almost 40 years old and the population of Windermere has grown substantially and regulations around operational, emergency and fire flow have changed during those four decades.
The new reservoir project will cost around $2.3 million.
Efforts to find a long-term answer to the Windermere water issue are still ongoing, with the RDEK working on determining an exact location to drill test wells for groundwater.
The test wells will be somewhere in the vicinity of Windermere Creek on the northeast side of the Highway 93/95, and the RDEK is negotiating with property owners to obtain permission before choosing a specific site, according to Ms. Ahlgren.
At the moment there is no firm timeline for the long-term Windermere water upgrade project.
With the uncertainty around the feasibility of the well option and timing of future funding opportunities, there is not a set schedule for presenting options to the community, said Ms. Ahlgren. If the results of the proposed test well are promising, there would be at least another year of work to determine the number of wells required, confirm any treatment requirements and prepare an environmental assessment.
The RDEK will be experimenting with user-borne costs to help pay for the water system upgrades and will use mock water rates for a year before any actual new rates come into effect, according to Ms. Booth.
The mock rates would give users a chance to see how much they would pay for water using a flat rate, compared with what they would pay with a metered rate.