The Town of Oliver operates an extensive rural and municipal water system serving domestic water to approximately 2,393 residential customers, 174 industrial/commercial customers and irrigation water to 601 agriculture connections which equates to irrigating over 5,200 acres of farm land and 455 acres of non-farm land.
Water is supplied from a combination of underground and surface sources and varies with demand during different seasons.
The Water Utility is operated as a single, self-sufficient entity. Although the rural and municipal water systems do run somewhat independently, their costs and expenses are pooled in a single fund. Major past projects, mostly related to the irrigation supply system, have been jointly shared by all water users. The Water Fund has used a combination of reserves and grant money for upgrades and improvements to the water system. A majority of the spending started taking place from the first Twinning (PH 1) project which started in 2007.
What is Cross-Connection?
A cross connection is any actual or potential connection between a potable (drinking) water line and any pipe, vessel, or machine containing non-potable fluid, solid or gas, such that it has the potential to enter into the potable water system by backflow.
As a condition on Operating Permits issued by Interior Health, water suppliers are obligated to protect the integrity of their water supply system, protecting any potable water system includes a Cross Connection Control Program.
The simplest measure we can all take to reduce the risk involves ensuring an air gap exists between the tap or water outlet and the holding tank. For example, always ensure the garden hose is above the flood rim of the janitor bucket or sink. Remember: never leave a garden hose submerged.
Cross Connection Bylaw
What is Backflow?
Backflow is a flow of solid, liquid or gas from any source opposite to the normal direction of flow, back into the potable water supply/system.
There are 2 types of backflow, backsiphonage and backpressure:
Backsiphonage is caused by negative pressure in the supply piping. Some common causes of backsiphonage are:
- High velocity in pipelines
- Line repair or a break that is lower than a service point
- Lowered main pressure due to high water withdrawal rate such as fire fighting or water main flushing
- Reduced supply pressure on the suction side of a booster pump
Backpressure is caused whenever a potable system is connected to a non potable supply operating under a higher pressure by means of a pump, boiler, etc… There is a high risk the non potable water may be forced into the potable system whenever these interconnections are not properly protected.
Degree of Hazards
A substance that could pose an immediate health concern because of the risk of death, spread of disease or illness, or injury to the customer if it were introduced into the potable water system.
A substance that would not impose an immediate health concern, but could result in the water in the purveyor’s system not meeting drinking water standards, or could interfere with the monitoring of water quality.
Where are Cross Connections Found?
Whenever a plumbing fixture is connected to the potable water supply, a potential cross connection exists. Fortunately, many of the plumbing fixtures have built-in backflow protection. Listed below are commonly found cross connections in our water systems:
- Wash basins and service sinks
- Hose bibs
- Irrigation sprinkler systems
- Auxiliary water supplies
- Laboratory and aspirator equipment
- Processing tanks
- Water recirculation systems
- Swimming pools
- Solar heat systems
- Fire sprinkler systems
Local Certified Backflow Testers
- Backflow devices must be tested after installation and yearly thereafter.
- Testing Companies – Need to register with FAST Tester?
- Testers, if you have any questions about the program, please contact MTS at 250-503-0893 or go to www.mtsinc.ca
- This list is provided for your convenience only – these testers are not endorsed by the Town.
|Accurate Fire Protection, Kelowna, BC||250-717-6614|
|Action Plumbing & Heating, Osoyoos, BC||250-495-6368|
|A-Z Plumbing & Heating, Osoyoos, BC|
|Blair Mechanical Services Ltd. Kelowna, BC|
|Bradley Fire Protection & Backflow Services Ltd., Kelowna, BC|
|Kettle Valley Plumbing, Penticton, BC||250-486-1616|
|Kobau Plumbing & Gas Fitting Ltd, Osoyoos, BC|
|MAVCO Plumbing & Heating Ltd., Penticton, BC|
|Nexus Fire & Safety Ltd, West Kelowna, BC|
|Southern Mechanical Services Inc., Penticton, BC|
|Troy Life & Fire Safety Ltd, Kelowna, BC||250-860-3991|
On January 25, 2016, a significant rock-slide occurred at Gallagher Lake impacting the siphon and flume which provides irrigation water to the Town of Oliver, Electoral Area C (rural Oliver) and the Osoyoos Indian Band. The Town of Oliver engaged engineers to assess the damage and works necessary to ensure operations in early April for the provision of water to the vast agricultural properties.
March 4 – Information
March 4 – News Release No. 1
March 14 – Information
March 24 – Information
April 1 – Information
April 14 – Irrigation Open Date Confirmed
June 3, 2016
Town Staff and the Town’s Engineering Consultant (TRUE) met with our hired Geo-technical Engineer (Golder Associates) and Rock Scaling company (T & A Rock Scaling) to discuss the mountain that caused the rock-slide damage at Gallagher. It was deemed unsafe to work under in certain conditions and could require further rock scaling but also cause further damage to the canal siphon. It was also deemed an unstable mountainside that could require over $1.2 million in rock scaling alone to make the working area below safe for machinery and workers. There were still no guarantees that the scaling would help enough and the Town needed to start looking at other options.
On August 8, 2016, Council passed a resolution to give staff $30,000 to look into various options of fixing, replacing, or re-routing the damaged canal. TRUE Consulting, with the help of other Engineer Professionals, will look at various options in more detail so the Town of Oliver can make a better decision and look for a partner (Provincial & Federal) to help fund some of these costs. The options range from $4 million to $10.5 million at initial estimates.
August 23, 2016
Town Council and Staff met with the Minister of Agriculture, Norm Letnick, at the Town’s Council chamber to discuss what has happened to the damage canal, what has been done, implications of damages, and future fixes and costs. Mr. Letnick encouraged the Town to look at future fixes and costs and approach the Ministry and government again at the coming UBCM Convention held on September 26 – 30 with the most recent info they have.
Water service is provided to most properties within the Town of Oliver. There are some areas around Tuc-el-nuit Lake and along the Okanagan River where domestic water is derived by residents from private wells.
The bulk of in-town properties using community water supplies are connected to the Town’s domestic water system. This system draws its water from four groundwater wells all year long and has the flexibility of boosting water from our rural domestic wells south of Town.
The Town has two reservoirs; a 500,000 US gallon (2010) and a 360,000 US gallon reservoir which are combined to provide pressure equalization, water supply during brief power failures, and reserve water capacity for fire protection.
The Town has added chlorine (water) disinfection to all in-town wells, as part of our ‘conditions on permit’, set out by the Interior Health Authority (IHA). Chlorination is monitored by operational staff daily and helps minimize the chances (disinfection) of bacteria, viruses and protozoa developing or living in the water. The Town undertook a new ‘chlorine contact time’ project that has placed additional main line water pipe, at two in-town wells, so the appropriate time of chlorination is achieved in order to properly combat any viruses or bacteria. Under the same project, the Town built an ‘on-site hypo chlorite generation’ building to produce a safe chlorine product at our Tuc-el-nuit well site.
Three of the four wells operate on a rotational basis but multiple wells can run and blend water during peak demand periods, as well as any additional demand can be boosted from the rural domestic system. This means that at different times of the year, the water arriving at any particular home may be from different wells and in some cases a blended product. Many customers notice these changes as the different wells have different hardness values, which will affect the taste of the water.
Late irrigation is available for those customers who require irrigation water beyond the early October irrigation shut down date set by Council.
Late irrigation is charged per acre / per day. The late irrigation rate for 2019 was $1.70 / acre /day.
Check back here October 2020 to find the current late irrigation rate and late irrigation form to be filled out and forwarded to the Public Works Department.
The history of Oliver’s rural water system dates back to the early 1920s, and forms the beginning of Oliver’s very existence.
Following World War I, BC Premier “Honest” John Oliver initiated the Soldiers’ Settlement project in the South Okanagan. This initiative was designed to provide immediate and long term economic opportunities for soldiers recently returned from overseas. An ambitious water supply project was to be built between Vaseux Lake and the US Border to create thousands of farm-able acres, which would be sold to the new settlers.
An open-channel irrigation canal was built in the following years under the auspices of the South Okanagan Lands Project, supplying water by gravity to potentially serve 5,000 or so acres of land. Although the portion of canal south of Road 18 has since been abandoned, approximately 20 km remains in service today, serving as the life-line to most of the area’s farming community.
In the 1960s, the Provincial Government handed the irrigation system to local farmers, by creating the South Okanagan Lands Irrigation District (SOLID). A significant system upgrade was undertaken, converting much of the gravity-fed lateral ditches to pressurized pipelines. The main canal, locally known as “The Ditch”, continued in operation, however, to provide water to the four main irrigation pumping stations in the rural Oliver area. The elevation of the ditch, which is up to 30m above the level of the river in places, provided an important advantage in reducing the necessary pumping power and resultant annual power bills.
With a loss of provincial assistance, SOLID began supplying water to domestic customers in the rural area and along the edge of the Village of Oliver, as it was. The water rate charged to these customers played, and continues to play, an important role in keeping agricultural irrigation rates at a minimum.
Unfortunately, the irrigation system was never designed to meet today’s water quality requirements for residential use. Water quality concerns had confronted SOLID since it began supplying water for domestic use. During summer months, surface water was diverted into the canal from the Okanagan River and was used for irrigation and rural domestic customers alike. Treatment was limited to simple chlorination with minimal contact time.
In the late 1980s growth in Oliver and Osoyoos brought pressure on SOLID. Both municipalities were exploring boundary expansions and conflicts over who would continue to supply water to the growth areas; this was brought to the Province and again the South Okanagan water supply stage one more time. In late 1989, the Province dissolved SOLID and turned its assets and operations over to the Towns of Oliver (60%) and Osoyoos (40%).
During the 1990s, the Town of Oliver undertook a major $5 million rehabilitation and automation of the irrigation canal system. This project, funded under the initial Canada-BC Infrastructure program, placed over 3.5 km of canal underground, solving key rock-fall concerns of the past, repaired or replaced approximately 4 km of remaining open canal, upgraded several control structures, and automated much of the canal’s day-to-day operations. With continued maintenance, the canal is now seen to provide ongoing service for decades to come.
One of the greatest concerns was addressing the long-standing rural water quality issues. This was particularly pressing with past Cryptosporidium outbreaks in the Kelowna water system and of course, the E.Coli outbreak associated with the Walkerton Ontario water system. The Town determined the most cost effective approach to addressing this problem would include installing a parallel water system to serve rural domestic customers with ground source water (twinning). The alternate approach of treating all rural water was determined to be impractical as the water used for irrigation does not require treatment.
In the early 2000s, The Town started looking at a universal water metering project, and with the aid of grants was able to include rural water twinning (separate water lines) to supply both potable and irrigation water to our rural customers during the irrigation season. This was a huge undertaking but once completed it would provide our rural customers with drinking water that meets today’s water quality standards.
Construction on Phase 1 (Systems 6 & 7) of the rural water twinning project was completed in 2007 & 2008. This project also brought us a new well (Miller), new 150,000 US gallon reservoir (Road 13) and pipe twinning. Phase 2 (Systems 4, 5 and parts of system 1) were completed from 2009 to 2012. Phase 3 (System 1) was completed 2013.
Water quality is a combination of measured and perceived parameters in any water supply. The obvious concerns relate to short-term and long-term impacts to human health.
While disinfection can prevent most water-borne diseases, not all pathogens are effectively destroyed by conventional chlorine disinfection. An outbreak of cryptosporidium in Cranbrook and Kelowna, during the summer of 1996, demonstrates the difficulty of treating these pathogens with only chlorination. Giardia is another difficult to destroy pathogen, because it forms cysts that protect it from chlorine. Many municipalities have invested in expensive filtering technology to address these types of pathogens.
Besides bacterial contamination, water supplies can also effect long term health if they contain unacceptable levels of certain compounds.
While a water supply may be safe to drink, it may be unpalatable because of aesthetic concerns such as taste, odour, colour or turbidity.
Oliver is fortunate to have a relatively good water supply. At this time, there are no known cases of water-borne diseases spread by our municipal water systems. However, this does not mean we can cease being vigilant about our water system. Despite our “clean” history, there are concerns about our water system that need monitoring and exploration of affordable options.
Water Testing in Oliver
Each of the Town’s water systems is tested on a weekly basis all year round for bacterial contamination. Water samples are submitted to provincial Ministry of Health officials, who send it off for lab testing to detect two components: E-Coli and total coliforms. E-Coli (Escherichia Coli) is commonly found in the lower intestine area of warm blooded organisms. Coliform bacteria also exist, which may originate in decaying organic matter.
Coliform bacteria are not themselves pathogenic; that is, they do not cause disease. However, they are used as an indicator of potential disease because it is impossible to conduct specific tests for all diseases potentially transmitted through drinking water.
A presence of coliform bacteria in water indicates potential contamination. Fecal coliforms specifically indicate contamination from human or animal sources, and a potential for other, disease causing organisms to be present. An absence of coliform bacteria is taken to indicate successful disinfection and safe water to drink. (notwithstanding concerns about giardia or cryptosporidium – see water quality concerns, above)
Lab tests will indicate the presence or absence of coliform bacteria. If no coliforms are detected the water is declared “satisfactory”. If fecal coliform are detected, the water is declared “not satisfactory”. It is immediately retested and a boil water advisory may be issued. If lab tests indicate no fecal coliform but some total coliform, then the water is immediately retested. A second positive result may also lead to a boil water advisory.
All of the Town’s rural and urban water sources are also tested on an annual basis for a full range of components including nitrates and various metals. These can be monitored on an annual basis to detect any immediate quality concerns and to track any trends in water quality from particular wells.
The following links will provide further information on this testing:
- Interior Health
- Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines from Health Canada
- BC Ministry of Health Services
Rural & Municipal Domestic Water Quality
The rural water customers who previously received treated surface water out of the canal water system are now receiving treated domestic water from the Town of Oliver’s domestic wells. This is thanks to the twinning projects which started in 2007 and were completed in 2014. All rural domestic water customers now receive their water from wells and treated by; a modern on-site hypo-chlorination system that generate a low concentration of chlorine product from salt or from a more concentrated chlorine product which injects proper doses into the water mainline.
The Municipal domestic water customers receive the same domestic drinking water as the rural customers, as the systems are sourced from the same wells and tied together by pipes, valves and the Airport Booster Station. The majority of the drinking water is produced by the In-Town wells but having some Rural wells supplement the system helps with our operation. As mentioned, all domestic wells receive chlorine treatment (as of 2014) and operational staff check the chlorine residuals in various parts of both systems weekly.
Addressing Water Quality Concerns
For the above reasons, the past problems in Walkerton, ON, have heightened the local concerns about water quality, particularly on joint domestic/agricultural systems using surface water supplies and has also changed the way water purveyors operate and deliver their water product. The Interior Health Authority provides/issues a “Conditions on Permit” so water purveyors, such as Oliver, operate their systems safely and appropriately but also strive to make improvements to the water systems.
To address water quality concerns, the Town of Oliver has made continuous improvements to the water system on an annual basis. Along with operational changes, equipment improvements and upgrades, the Town continues to improve its water systems to help us achieve a higher quality product.