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Kelowna has some of the best tap water in the world

Of course Kelowna residents take their water for granted.

It's plentiful, clean and cheap.

And, as such, we tend to let it flow freely from the tap with hardly a second thought.

"Yes, Canadians use a lot of water per capita," said City of Kelowna utility services manager Kevin Van Vliet.

"And, in the Okanagan, we're some of the biggest per capita users in Canada because of the irrigation used for agriculture in our hot, dry climate."

These are all things to keep in mind as we mark the United Nations' World Water Day today.

The UN declares this day annually to raise awareness that far from everyone in the world has access to clean drinking water.

And for those of us who do have safe water, we should appreciate it more.

</who>Kelowna's tap water is pristine.

"Definitely, we're so eager for people to take care of our water and its sources," said Van Vliet.

"We also urge people to conserve. Reduce the amount you use outside by having drought-tolerant plantings instead of too much lawn and make in-house more water efficient with a new toilet that uses 4 to 6 litres per flush instead of 13."

The City of Kelowna doesn't have any events or campaigns built specifically around World Water Day.

But it is looking at doing so in the future.

In the meantime, Van Vliet is capitalizing on the day to tout Kelowna's world-class water utility.

"Our drinking water is in great shape," he said.

"It's safe and great tasting and we encourage people to drink the tap water. I don't know why you'd drink bottled water when the water out of the tap is award-winning."

The award to which he refers is the BC Water & Wastewater Association's Best of the Best Tap Water Taste Challenge.

Kelowna's tap water was ranked No. 1 in the province in 2014 in a blind tasting judged by four 'water taste professionals.'

The water had to excel in five categories -- appearance (you want it crystal clear), aroma (you don't want any smell actually, especially chlorine), taste (pure), mouth feel (again, clean and fresh) and aftertaste (you don't want any).

</who> Kelowna's drinking water comes from Okanagan Lake.

Getting back to the cost of this exceptional water -- it's cheap.

The city utility charges 56 cents per cubic metre of water, which works out to .06 cents per litre of tap water -- a steal of a deal compared to the $1 to $3 a litre of bottled water costs.

"Kelowna has some of the most affordable water in Canada because we don't have to filter it because it's so clear to start with," said Van Vliet.

That brings us to the source of our water and what has to be done to it to bring it up to Interior Health guidelines for drinking water.

The City of Kelowna water utility draws from Okanagan Lake, which has good clarity.

The water ended up in the lake after pristine snow on mountains melts and flows via creeks and ground water to into the larger body of water.

Water pulled from the lake just has to be treated gently with chlorine (which dissipates quickly so the water doesn't smell) and ultraviolet light to kill any bacteria and bring it up to drinking water standards.

From there, it passes through pumping stations and storage tanks to neighbourhood pipes and your tap.

</who>Water is one of the world's most precious resources.

The 80,000 people served by Kelowna's water utility use up to 105 million litres of water per day -- that's 1,300 litres per person per day taking into account showers, baths, toilet flushes, laundry, cooking, drinking and watering the lawn.

"The peak times, accordingly, are early morning, the dinner hour and hot summers with sprinklers," said Van Vliet.

Yes, it's drinking water that you use to water your lawn.

While that may seem like a waste, it would take too much of an infrastructure change at huge expense to have two separate systems for drinking water and irrigation.

Kelowna's population is 145,000 and 80,000 are on the city water utility.

The 65,000 others are served by the Black Mountain Irrigation District (which also gets its water from Okanagan Lake), Rutland Water Works (which draws on wells filled by ground water) and Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District (another Okanagan Lake user).

This all brings us to what happens to all that dirty water from toilet flushes, showers and baths, laundry and washing dirty dishes.

It travels via pipes, sewer mains and pump stations to the wastewater treatment plant on Raymer Avenue.

It's cleaned up with a series of screening, clarification, filtering, bacterial organisms eating waste and ultraviolet light disinfection.

When it reaches near drinking water quality again, it's pumped, through an outfall pipe, back into Okanagan Lake, 1.2 kilometres offshore at a depth of 60 metres.

Last night, the Okanagan Basin Water Board hosted an online event via Zoom so people could watch the environmental documentary DamNation and discuss it with a panel made up of Sylix traditional ecological knowledge keeper Richard Armstrong, Black Mountain Irrigation District administrator Bob Hrasko, Okanagan Nation Alliance fisheries biologist Dawn Machin and water board executive director Anna Warwick Sears.

The documentary advocates the removal of unnecessary dams to let water resume its natural course.

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