Residents of East Bench in the Osoyoos Irrigation District were left with little to no water on Wednesday afternoon and most of the day Thursday after a planned power outage this week.
The district, which runs mainly off of pumped well water in the winter time, was told Monday that Fortis BC needed to update electrical systems in the area, affecting lake water reservoirs that are mainly used for irrigation in the summer months.
These reservoirs are also used to supplement water in the well, which has enough capacity for roughly 95 per cent of the local residents, according to Osoyoos Irrigation District’s board chair.
But when the well water gets low, electricity is needed to pump extra water from the lake water reservoirs to the residents. During the planned power outage, these pumps were turned off, leaving the well out of water.
Bill Plaskett, chairman of the board of trustees for the Osoyoos Irrigation District and East Bench resident, said people were notified of the power outage and told to conserve water, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.
“Fortis notified everybody up here on the East Bench there was going to be a general power outage for the whole East Bench from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday. So we put out a notice to everybody to use water judiciously,” Plaskett said. “We hoped everybody would use (water) judiciously, well I don’t think that has happened. We basically have been short on water for a number of people here last night and today.”
Plaskett said the issue was a lack of notice for the power outage on Wednesday, which did not give the area enough time to stock up on water from the lake reservoirs to keep them going.
“We figured we were fine until Monday,” said Plaskett, “Well yesterday the power was off from 9 a.m to 3 p.m.. By the time the power came back on, basically everybody had drained out the reservoir.”
The system also runs on gravity, Plaskett explained, which meant that people living at the bottom of the system merely saw lowered water pressure while other residents living near the top of the water line ran out completely.
Although Paskett wishes more notice for the complete power outage had been given so the water shortage could have been avoided, he praises Fortis for the work they put in to get the power back on and water back to all residents.
“Fortis has put through a great effort to finish that job early, so as of between 2:30 and 3 p.m. this afternoon, we switched our lake pumps back on,” said Plaskett in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. “There should be nobody in the district as of this moment that has not got water.”
Sophie Gray, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Osoyoos Times