Kettle River Q&A: Where is my drinking water from?

Where does your drinking water come from?

That’s the question that I hope will be on everyone’s mind over the coming weeks.

May 20-26 has been declared Drinking Water Week by the BC Water & Waste Association. Events are planned around the province (including Grand Forks) to help people learn more about where their drinking water comes from and how we manage it.

When asked in our recent survey about the uses and values of water that mattered most to them, survey respondents consistently named household supply as the most important water use. As residents expressed, safe drinking water is “blue gold” – we “can’t live without it!”

In the Kettle River Watershed, residents get their drinking water from many different sources: municipal utilities, irrigation & improvement districts, community water supplies, and their own private wells, springs and surface water intakes.

Most survey respondents rely on groundwater through municipal water systems (40%), irrigation districts (15%) or private wells (30%). Less than 10% of respondents rely on surface water.

Each water source has its own strengths and weaknesses that need to be considered by utility managers and well owners alike.

Larger suppliers need to use a “multi-barrier” approach to protect drinking water sources from contamination. This involves considering potential risks in the watershed, filtering and treating surface water, and keeping the distribution system free of contamination.

Wherever sufficient, quality groundwater is available, residents and water users have favoured it over surface supplies because it is generally more reliable and requires little or no treatment. Large water suppliers like the City of Grand Forks, the Grand Forks Irrigation District, the Village of Midway, and the City of Greenwood all provide well water to residents, farms and businesses.

In the Grand Forks Aquifer, most of the large supply wells are deeper than 30 metres (90 feet). Some of the deep wells in the central and western parts of the valley yield over 75 litres per second (1000 gallons per minute). Water levels are replenished every year by spring floods, snowmelt and precipitation, although high levels of use means less cool water returning to the Kettle River.

Because of the increasing availability of water from large water suppliers, the valley is dotted with wells that are no longer in use. If these haven’t been closed (abandoned) properly, they can allow contamination on the surface to travel down to the groundwater and threaten other people’s supply.

The City of Grand Forks will be hosting events during Drinking Water Week, including at one of their new wells – stay tuned for more details. And get the Boundary on the map for your commitment to save water by taking the Drinking Water Challenge at http://drinkingwaterweek.org/.

Contact Graham Watt (plan@kettleriver.ca) about this or any other watershed questions.