Groundwater protection planning and implementation by Rutland Waterworks District

Posted December 2005

The Rutland Waterworks District (RWD) was commissioned in 1949 to serve about 50 properties in the Rutland area of Kelowna. At that time, the district held a water license for Mission Lake, located in the Greystokes. After recognizing potential groundwater sources, RWD relinquished its license on the surface water supply and built its first well into the Greater Kelowna Aquifer in the 1960s. The district now operates 15 active wells.

RWD is just one of many water suppliers to access the aquifer. In the past ten years, as area irrigation districts have expanded to provide more water for domestic purposes, groundwater has been used to augment surface water supplies during run-off periods in late spring and early summer, and demand for clean and stable water sources continues to rise. Industry has also expanded its use of well water for turf farms and golf courses.

A number of water quality events in the past few years have prompted increased vigilance of our potable water supply. The most serious event was in Walkerton, Ontario, where groundwater became contaminated with disastrous results. Governments and health agencies responded by enacting more stringent legislation and regulations. The Province of B.C. adopted its new Drinking Water Protection Act, and Interior Health introduced new standards that must be met if water utilities are to maintain their operating permits.

RWD board members and staff are committed to protecting our water source and ensuring quality water is delivered to district customers. To that end, the district complies with all regulations, and has for several years. RWD continues to expand its work in protecting source water, and is cooperating with all appropriate agencies to ensure safe drinking water. Examples of the district’s drinking water protection programs include the following:

Cross-Connection Control Program

This program was introduced in 1991 and was expanded within the Kelowna Joint Water Committee membership in 1997. A central registry is in place for the backflow devices; the city plumbing department maintains the system. The program is a uniform effort by all local water districts, which has a progressive plan to reduce the potential hazards of backflow into our water systems. The plan started by surveying and identifying hazard ratings of all connections throughout the area, and then eliminating these hazards starting from the high hazard services. The Central Registry records all installed backflow prevention devices and monitors the maintenance on a continual basis.

Wellhead Protection

The Ministry of Environment designed a process for inspection and maintenance of wellheads. This “tool-kit” has been incorporated into the district’s well-field program. Wells are inspected regularly to ensure their integrity. Wellhead protection prevents surface water contaminants from entering the aquifer thru the surface well piping.

Hydrogeologist Involvement

RWD consults regularly with a registered hydrogeologist who oversees design and maintenance of the district’s wells. A recent report was prepared entitled Groundwater Protection Planning: Greater Kelowna Aquifer (2004) by Golder & Associates. Specific details were given to identify the aquifer size, potential yield, flow direction, recharge areas, and initial review of vulnerability.

Future Aquifer Protection Plans

  • The provincial and federal Governments have an on-going program to catalogue all wells and bore holes in the area.
  • A vulnerability study is proposed to further identify recharge areas and potential threats to groundwater.
  • The Okanagan Basin Water Board has a new mandate and funding that could be used to promote a valley-wide approach to aquifer protection.
  • UBC-Okanagan is proposing a Water Trust to help catalogue all pertinent information, and to promote an academic component through the university to further enhance the local knowledge base for water issues.

RWD continues to support all of these water protection initiatives. The district is an active member of the Kelowna Joint Water Committee, the Water Supply Association of BC, and the Ground Water Association of BC, and participates in new initiatives such as the Okanagan Basin Water Board and the UBC-O Water Trust.

For more information contact RWD manager Bruce Wilson at 250-765-5218 or