Diverting a portion of Summerland’s excess municipal water supply to a Meadow Valley orchard could be a win-win for the municipality and agriculture, says the local cherry grower who’s trying to bolster his irrigation system.
Keith Carlson told council Monday he’s willing to help cover some of the costs of operating the municipally owned – but seldom used – Aneas Lake dam in exchange for drawing water from Garnet Lake downstream.
The water would be pumped about 750 metres from Garnet Lake to a 75-acre cherry orchard at 48 Savanna Rd. that was planted in 2016 and 2017. The property is currently irrigated using two wells and run-off, but Carlson said those sources are variable depending on seasonal weather conditions.
“Because of this, we are looking to supplement that water supply, and the best way to do that is to try to do that with the District of Summerland, (which) has most of the water in the area,” said Carlson, whose daughter, Erin, is a councillor and recused herself from Monday’s discussion.
He estimated his annual need for 40 to 80 mega-litres of water would represent a fraction of the approximately 1,200 mega-litres that’s spilled over the Garnet Dam on its way to Okanagan Lake each year.
“All we’re asking to do is pump a small bit of that,” said Carlson “If there’s extra water, rather than just releasing it down into Aeneas Creek going past my orchards, it’s much easier just to tell me and I can take some of that if I need it.”
Public works manager Kris Johnson confirmed there’s plenty of water available, and that the water would remain available in the system even if the Aeneas Lake dam is decommissioned.
The possibility of removing the dam has been in discussion for over a decade as a way to limit liability and repair costs for the structure, which is typically left in the spill position.
Council voted unanimously to refer the matter to committees and staff for more research and discussion.
“It sounds in principle like there’s unused water flowing down to the ocean. There has to be a way to make this work,” said Coun. Richard Barkwill.