Kootenay Lake seen from Gyro Park in Nelson. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Kootenay Lake seen from Gyro Park in Nelson. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Regional District of Central Kootenay ponders creating new water protection service

A study will begin in 2023

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

Regional District of Central Kootenay officials are investigating whether to create a new service to protect the region’s water supply.

Planning officials were given the go-ahead by the RDCK board to study whether the regional government should create a Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Service.

The Community Sustainable Living Advisory Committee (CSLAC) heard from staff the new service would be a way of formalizing work already being done by an existing program for water protection – the Watershed Governance Initiative (WGI).

The WGI has spent the last year or so bringing together local water users, government officials, First Nations and water stewardship groups to beef up watershed protection in the RDCK.

“The last years have not only demonstrated the value of having a regional watershed and drinking water entity within the RDCK but also the increasing need to champion the protection of drinking water and watersheds in the RDCK,” says a staff report. “The RDCK WGI team has identified a strong desire for an entity that can advocate, respond, educate and support residents in protecting their drinking water and watersheds.”

The WGI has also had a problem attracting staff for what is currently a temporary program. Making the program permanent could also help, staff said. “As well, sustainable funding would enable programs to be developed, expanded and offered consistently…,” they add.

Protection of water sources is key to economic development and community wellness, something a protection service would support.

“Data could be collected and distributed to provide communities with information to more accurately understand the impacts of climate change, industry, recreation, natural hazards, development and also the compounded and unknown,” the report says. “Furthermore, this would enable communities to prepare for the anticipated events related to climate change: wildfire, drought, flooding, debris flows.”

Need another service?

The RDCK currently provides about 170 services – from region-wide ones like building inspection, garbage pickup and transit, to area-specific services like recreation, water systems, dog control, and even supporting local off-air television transmission.

The proposed service would be paid for by a parcel tax on each property in the regional district.

While the motion was supported by most CSLAC members, Area D Director Aimee Watson voted against the motion (along with Area K Director Paul Peterson).

“We have a lot on our plate. Staff aren’t able to keep up with all the things we give them to do, and I would rather focus on the things in front of us at this time,” Watson said, referring to current water initiatives.

The study was endorsed by the general RDCK board the next day, though Watson added an amendment that the work not start until 2023.

While the study is a go, a service is still several steps away from being set up. Following the service case analysis, the board would still vote on whether to move forward with the idea.

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