Water is one of the most precious resources in the world, which is why a Farleigh Lake resident is raising the alarm over potential risks to her small community’s supply.
There’s one major problem though: finding who to bring the concerns to.
“Where I need help, I’m just looking for someone who’s responsible when things do go wrong and it all hits the fan,” said Chris Vohar. “It’s basically the wild wild west out here.”
Farleigh Lake, located on an offshoot of Green Mountain Road between Penticton and Apex Mountain, is a small settlement of about a score of properties.
Those properties are largely reliant on the water of the lake for both drinking and irrigation needs.
The lake lies in the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) Area I, but the water and the lake is an entirely separate system, one of many small independent systems of six or more water licensees across the province.
Now a new residence is going up on one of the nearby properties, and Vohar fears that the new home and its irrigation will put too much strain on the already limited resources provided.
As part of the requirements from the provincial government, Vohar and others in the community have water filtration systems set up to make the water they draw from the lake safe to use.
“We’ve had troubles this winter with water,” said Vohar. “With the water treatments in my house, I don’t even have enough pressure to run those treatments anymore.
We literally will run out of water as a system just down the line. It needs to be replaced, it is way too small when it was replaced 40 years ago and subdivided the lots. It was supposed to be four homes, now we have eight.”
But, Vohar isn’t looking for money to solve the issue.
“I’m not looking for someone to replace the line and dish out $50,000, I just want them to come down and tell them that the line is too small and it needs to be replaced.”
With her concerns, Vohar sought to find someone who would be responsible, reaching out to the RDOS, Interior Health and every other avenue she could think of.
In one of her questions, to a contractor who installs water lines, her concerns only grew.
“He says ‘What kind of property values do you think you’re going to have? How do you sell your house, because I wouldn’t buy a house on the same line with four other people.’
“It’s caused a lot of stress with the hubby, you’re not fighting but you’re still stressing. You can see they’ve already done the hookup and it will be buried soon if it isn’t already.”
The RDOS confirmed in an email that the Farleigh Lake Water system has no connection to any RDOS system and that it is one of many within the Regional District along with others like the private Lakeshore Water Works in Heritage Hills next to Skaha Lake and the quasi-public Okanagan Falls Irrigation District.
According to an emailed response from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development, the costs of maintaining, upgrading and repairing the shared works of these water user communities are the responsibility of the residents, according to the Water Users’ Communities Act.
The Ministry of Health is responsible for drinking water protection under the Drinking Water Protection Act, including drinking water provided to domestic licenses for members of Water User Communities.
One spot of light is the Water Sustainability Act, which does provide authority to regulate individual members of water users’ communities through the regional authorization team that is a part of the Ministry of Forests.
Interior Health responded with a statement on Friday, April 16, noting that construction on a water system may require a construction permit, and advise suppliers to contact the health authority to determine if one is required.
The statement also noted that water suppliers are required by the Drinking Water Protection Regulation to provide samples for testing, with notifications expected to be sent out by the system if they are found to be a risk to the public.
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