B.C. outlines plan to address water quality in North Okanagan aquifer

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The British Columbia government said it will take a series of immediate steps toward ensuring safe drinking water for approximately 200 residents near Spallumcheen on March 21, 2016.

Residents within Steel Springs Water District have been under a water-quality advisory since 2014 because of elevated nitrate levels in their local drinking water source, Hullcar aquifer 103. The region has seen intensive agriculture activity for the past century.

A working group with representation from the ministries of Environment; Agriculture; and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations; along with Interior Health will work with the local agrifood industry, water district and First Nations to protect drinking-water quality while supporting a sustainable agriculture sector.

Initial actions will cover five areas:

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  • A review of all available water-quality data as well as relevant legislation is already underway.
  • The cross-ministry working group will work with the agriculture industry and local producers to promote best farming practices including best practices for nutrient management.
  • An enhanced monitoring program will be implemented, along with continued compliance and enforcement actions.
  • The Province will work with local, external agencies with expertise, including UBC Okanagan and the Okanagan Basin Water Board, toward long-term water-quality solutions.
  • Community information meetings will be scheduled within the coming weeks. All information concerning sampling and testing, permitting, compliance and enforcement that can be legally shared will be available and regularly updated on the Ministry of Environment website: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/regions/okanagan/envman/hullcar-aquifer.html

Previous analysis suggests a combination of factors is likely affecting the Hullcar aquifer and it will take multiple actions by provincial and local government, agriculture industry and the community to improve water quality. The aquifer from which Steele Springs Water District draws its drinking water is unconfined and it is difficult to ascertain if nitrates are coming from any one source.


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