Lytton and Salmo: Small systems have big plans

A recent survey showed there to be more than 3,300 water systems in B.C. Ninety-six systems operated by medium- to large-sized municipalities serve 90 percent of the population. The remainder are served by 97 regional districts, 57 small municipalities, 118 water user communities, 468 First Nations reserves, 211 improvement districts, and more than 2,100 park, campground, and commercial systems.

While each type of system has unique challenges, the smaller water utilities struggle particularly with minimal manpower and finances. Take Lytton, for example, with 200 connections that serve 500 people.

“You can fix anything if you have the money,” says Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Dall, “but we don’t.” Despite the financial challenges, however, Lytton is moving ahead to meet the water-related objectives outlined in its strategic plan. In January, the village completed mapping of the water, sewer, and storm systems so staff would have a better idea of what’s in the ground. A study was conducted to determine where extra water can be stored for fire flow and peak demand. An operational guideline was initiated to identify where valves, hydrants and other water-related equipment are located. This will enable more organized maintenance scheduling. The report is due by the end of the year.

Another bonus is the approval of a Water Supply Grant, which will identify new sources of water, particularly for peak demand periods. Leak detection is also a priority, with nine leaks being found and repaired.

Water conservation is key in Lytton, which sources its water from Lytton Creek and a back-up well. In 2004, the village put a total ban on all sprinkling and outside use because of very low water levels in Lytton Creek. As reported by CAO Thomas Dall, “When the total ban was in place we had the public attend a council meeting to show their displeasure…When Land and Water BC heard about our problem they sent in a team to do some water conservation education. This was well received by the public. Luckily, the rain started and we got out of a panic situation.”

Other initiatives recommended to council by the CAO include infrastructure improvements, water conservation, and public education.

The Village of Salmo is another small utility with big plans. Servicing 520 connections with four wells, the utility is currently developing a five-year capital plan that may include the drilling of another deep well and the introduction of water meters. Even though there’s plenty of water during peak demand, Supervisor of Works Ken Anderson says that sprinkling is abused in the summer, even with odd/even watering days. To test the concept of meters, Anderson would like to run a pilot in a particular area and see the resulting reduction in consumption.

But while lack of water is not a concern in Salmo, the lack of tax money is. As a bedroom community to Castlegar, Nelson, and Trial, Salmo has a limited industrial tax base, which makes it difficult to pay for upgrades.

“Public education will be key,” says Anderson, “and we’re committed to keeping residents informed.”

For more information about the Lytton water system, contact Thomas Dall at 250-455-2355 or

lyttonhotspot@telus.netFor more information about the Salmo system, contact Ken Anderson at 250-357-2413 or