A new Regional District of Central Kootenay committee has been formed to oversee all 19 RDCK-owned water systems. The regional district says it will “streamline decision making and improve risk mitigation while still ensuring effective public input.”
Environmental services manager Uli Wolf says until now the systems have operated under a variety of different models: some have no supervising body, some have advisory committees, and others have commissions of management, leaving governance “somewhat fragmented.”
The new water services committee will be made up of all of the rural electoral area directors, except for Area I, which is not home to any RDCK-owned systems. It will also have representation from the Town of Creston, which gets its water through the RDCK.
Although the new committee won’t replace the other governance bodies entirely, it will assume some of their responsibilities. Wolf says over the last 15 years staff have already taken over some duties formerly handled by those groups. Bylaws for most of the existing water commissions are expected be rescinded or amended later this year, but they would continue to exist as advisory groups.
“These committees are then an intermediary between staff and the residents in the water systems,” Wolf says. “It allows us to get feedback about their preferences in regards to rate settings and other measures.”
An inaugural meeting of the new committee is planned for next week and it is expected to meet six times a year from then on.
“This governance structure is an attempt to have an elected body that we present to and get feedback and direction from for strategic approaches in our water systems,” Wolf says.
The committee will be responsible for reviewing and making recommendations to the board on topics such as water metering and conservation standards, as well as acquiring new water systems. For many years the RDCK has had a moratorium in place on taking on any more systems.
“We have extended [the moratorium] because we feel this governance body needs to discuss if we are ready and willing and able to allow other systems to become RDCK systems,” Wolf says. “That is a fairly involved discussion and if there is any appetite by the elected officials to do so we need to create with their support a structure that allows us to do so.”
Wolf says that would include setting selection criteria and deciding how many systems they could add.
The new committee has been under consideration since 2013.
“As staff we are excited to finally have this in place,” Wolf adds. “This was an initiative we have been working for a long time on. I think it will allow us higher efficiency in regards to strategic approaches overall for all of our utilities.”