The RDOS supplies water to approximately 80 residences in Faulder through a formal service agreement. Residents within a well-defined service area (see map) agreed in 1993 to “hire” the RDOS to operate a well and provide water. In return, residents in the service area pay for all of the cost of the water system through their property taxes. These costs include capital debt repayment, operational costs, and an overhead charge by the RDOS. There are numerous residents along Princeton-Summerland Road and north of the service area who are “Faulder residents” but who are not part of the Faulder water system. These residents draw water from their own sources and, as a result, are not taxed by the RDOS for water provision. The logic behind a service area is that those who benefit from the service are taxed for its provision while those who do not benefit are not taxed.
A question has arisen lately about the status of Faulder residents who are not part of the Faulder water system but who might be interested in buying water from Summerland if the proposed Summerland-Faulder water project goes forward. The proposed pipeline route runs along Princeton-Summerland Road (see proposal presentation) and new connections along that pipeline would be very straightforward, at least in principle.
But here is where it gets tricky: The RDOS has absolutely no authority to negotiate water issues for Faulder residents who are not part of the Faulder water system. Once the pipeline is in the ground, it will be owned and operated by the District of Summerland (DoS). Any new connections will therefore be at the discretion of the DoS. In addition, a latecomer’s fee will likely be charge to new connections so that everyone pays their share of the infrastructure cost. In short, any new connection to the Summerland-Faulder system would require the property owner to enter into a negotiation with the District of Summerland.
Of course, this process could be streamlined a bit if the RDOS got involved and we batched these requests together. That is, we could, with Summerland’s permission, expand the boundaries of the Faulder water system service area prior to construction of the pipeline and make all the new connections before putting the dirt back in the holes. At this point in the negotiation process with Summerland, we have merely alerted them to the fact that residents who are currently not part of the Faulder community water system might be interested in joining. We could certainly follow-up on this, but we would need some idea of how many residents are involved first. As such, I am encouraging Faulder residents (broadly defined) who are in this situation to get in touch with us.
Personally, I see some benefits and challenges to expanding the water system to include more private well owners. On the benefits side, if uranium in the Meadow Valley aquifer is a problem for the Faulder community well, it is problem for all well owners in the area. On the challenges side, the District of Summerland may be sensitive to the number of properties added to its water system given that peak demand for treated water already exceeds capacity. The DoS may also be concerned about agricultural uses of treated water given that some of the properties along Princeton-Summerland Road are large.
My initial response to these concerns would be as follows:
- We are not talking about new development here. These properties already draw ground water from the Trout Creek watershed (see image of aquifer and creeks). Thus, there is no new water consumption. And, as noted previously, this is a very small amount of water relative to the size of the Summerland system—a fraction of a percent.
- Those requesting new connections could make a contribution to the Summerland irrigation separation project. This would be akin to paying a development cost charge (DCC) for the service, which is fairly standard.
- Water meters will be mandatory for all connections in the proposed Summerland-Faulder system. Thus, agricultural use of the treated water can be controlled by the District of Summerland.
- The cost of a water treatment plant is largely fixed. Thus, the more users, the cheaper the plant is for everyone (including residents of Summerland). Again, we are not talking about many connections here so Summerland’s economic upside is limited. But some new money is better than no new money.
I am certainly interested in hearing more about this. Please pass it along to your neighbors if you think it applies to them.