'Glenmore' - meaning the great valley!

Kelowna is situated in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada. Kelowna is unique as it has five major water suppliers in the city, with each supplier having a different source for water. The Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District (GEID) supplies the Glenmore Valley as well as the Ellison area. GEID' s water source is from the mountains and is supplemented by five wells. The GEID also services the McKinley Landing area. This area is supplied from water from Okanagan Lake.

The Trustees and staff invite you to step back through time to a beautiful (but arid) place called Dry Valley (Glenmore), where economic boom or bust depended on the construction of an effective and reliable water system.

Although simple in theory, developing water works proved a slow and frustrating process influenced by powerful land developers, engineering obstacles, difficult climatic conditions, legal disputes, bankruptcy, and economic discrimination. Read on to see how GEID'S intriguing history still has implications for Glenmore residents today.

In the beginning The Okanagan Valley's semi-arid climate forced early settlers to locate near rivers and lakes. The site of Mill Creek was the deciding factor in the choice of Dry Valley (Glenmore) development.

Starting in 1885, Frederick Brent was one of the first settlers to receive a 'crown grant' from the provincial government. Boundaries of each grant followed quarter section lines, regardless of topography, and each applicant was granted one or more quarter sections. With an average annual rainfall of only 12 inches Glenmore homesteaders used their land for cattle ranching, logging and subsistence farming.

28,839 feet of concrete-lined and wooden canals and steel flumes were built by Central Okanagan Lands to distribute water to area farms.

Developer's Dreams
From the turn of the century to about 1905, real estate speculation converged in the Central Okanagan intent on buying undeveloped land in the Mill Creek and Glenmore valleys, and the Mission and East Kelowna areas. Whole sections were bought, subdivided and sold by these powerful land development companies.

In 1907, several local businessmen formed Central Okanagan Lands Ltd. to buy and develop virtually all lands within Glenmore and parts of Mill Creek Valley and Rutland. Financed by a half-million dollar Dominion Trust co. bond issue of $300,000, of which was sold in Britain. Central Okanagan Lands was subdivided into orchard-sized parcels and sold to wealthy eastern Canadians who thought "money grew on trees" in the Okanagan. Purchasers paid from $250 - $400 per acre for land they could farm themselves or hire Central Okanagan Lands to clear, plant and operate.  In addition to advertising "good roads, good people, good schools, telephone, electric light, and daily mail", Central Okanagan Lands promised prospective buyers "a domestic water system bringing beautiful pure water from 18 to 20 miles up in the mountains."

Built in 1911 by COLL, Postill Lake Dam/Reservoir was designed to supply 4000 acres in Glenmore and 800 acres in the Bulman subdivision. Measuring 550 by 28 feet, the dam consisted of a rock-filled log curb on a concrete foundation, and a wooden sluice culvert controlled by three gates in a wooden tower. Condemned by the Water Rights Branch in 1932, the dam required complete reconstruction which increased storage to 3,000 acres feet, In 1947 the dam was raised five feet to increase storage to 4,200 acre feet. Raised and rebuilt twice since then, the dam now holds 4,538 acres feet.

To build, operate and maintain the waterworks intended to benefit its land, Central Okanagan Lands formed the Kelowna Irrigation Company.  By special agreement, Kelowna Irrigation Company also supplied water to Thomas Bulman's subdivisions in Ellison and Rutland. Co-ownership and all expenses for construction and operation were shared on a 75/25 split, with Bulmans' Okanagan Development and Orchard Company owning the minor share.  The gravity fed water supply system originated in the Mill Creek watershed east of Ellison, and included the Postill Lake Dam, South Lake Dam, McKinley Regulating Reservoir, and 34 miles of concrete ditches, flumes and steel pipelines.

Built by COLL, the 4,125 feet of flume were often suspended on trestles like these.

Despite Central Okanagan Land's efforts and promises, however, exorbitant operating and maintenance costs forced the ill-fated system into bankruptcy. When domestic water was not installed as promised, landowners sued the company and its agents for gross misrepresentation and fraud. The 1914 failure of Dominion Trust Co. - which held Central Okanagan Lands bond issue deposit - forced the company into liquidation by 1916.

The birth of Glenmore Irrigation District
With Central Okanagan Lands in receivership, little funding was available for much-needed repairs and maintenance on the poorly built and rapidly deteriorating system. The provincial government was lobbied by both the troubled development companies and landowners to amend the water act to allow the formation of irrigation districts. With the takeover of these privately owned and operated waterworks, financial assistance from the government enabled the newly forming irrigation districts to borrow money to purchase water systems.

The resulting Conservation Fund loaned the newly incorporated Glenmore Irrigation District $27,000 to buy the assets of the defunct Kelowna Irrigation Company. In return, the District committed to make annual repayments of the principle plus interest. 1921 irrigation taxes of $16.00 per acre of Grade A land were based almost exclusively on that annual repayment.

When the Glenmore Irrigation District approached government about funding to cover first-year operating costs, it was told there would be little, if any, funding available. District trustees grappled with how to finance urgently needed repairs without overburdening the already-strained orchardists. It was a vicious cycle of too little water, meager crops, poor cash flow, high taxes, insufficient system repairs, too little water….!

The effects of irrigation were felt almost immediately upon the system's completion. In 1912, Stewart Nursery planted 100,000 fruit trees, establishing Kelowna as an agricultural force to be reckoned with.

As all newly formed irrigation districts were experiencing similar problems, they formed the Association of Water Districts in 1923 primarily to lobby the provincial government for interest relief, longer payment periods, and/or forgiveness of incorporation loans. Grit and determination paid off seven years later when a Relief Bill was passed giving 25 percent forgiveness of all borrowing to December 31st, 1923. On October 28th 1928 the Water Rights Branch announced relief for the Glenmore Irrigation District totaling $58,400, leaving a balance of $77,000 still owing the Conservation Fund.

The 1930's
When a decade of dry summers indicated the need for increased storage capacity, the GID (Glenmore Irrigation District) embarked on a project to develop Eccleston Slough (the Glenmore Landfill Site) as a large storage basin for spring flood waters diverted from Mill Creek. Despite resistance from engineers, the GID expropriated 260 acres for the proposed reservoir and pumping station.

Completed in 1931, the project required the slough be pumped out at the end of the irrigation season to remove heavy concentrations of alkali before diverting water into it the following spring. In its publication 'Glenmore, The Apple Valley', the Centennial Committee writes that "so much dissatisfaction resulted that the project was abandoned after only a few days of pumping, and it was never proved whether or not would be possible to get rid of the alkali. Agricultural experts said it could be done, but practical farmers are not always ready to risk their livelihood on theoretical opinion."

On a more positive note, the 1930's saw the replacement of the aboveground siphon with an underground pipeline made of steel and concrete.

The '40s and '50s
Few changes occurred during the 1940's, the Glenmore Irrigation continued to operate and maintain its gravity fed, open flume and ditch distribution system. The 1950's however, saw the complete reconstruction and upsizing of the South Lake Dam, which had been built originally by Central Okanagan Lands in 1918.  December 31st, 1949 marked the retirement of W.R. (Bill) Reed as the District's longest-standing manager. Employed first as a surveyor, then as manager of the Kelowna Irrigation Company before it was taken over by GID, Reed served the District as manager, secretary, assessor and collector for almost 30 years. Mr. Reed served the District in a proficient and resourceful way. GID's difficult early years of reconstruction and system expansion proved him to be a technically knowledgeable and a dedicated employee. During the long battle with the provincial government over the Conservation Relief Fund, he was proved an astute negotiator. Highly regarded as an honest, forthright, no-nonsense type of man, he was difficult to replace after his retirement.

The '60s and '70s
Complete rehabilitation of its distribution system to underground, pressurized pipelines was Glenmore Irrigations priority during the late '60s. Funding for the reconstruction and upgrading was made possible with the passing of the Agricultural Rehabilitation and Development (ARDA), with the costs being shared equally among the District and the Federal and Provincial Governments. The 1970's saw the introduction of chlorine to provide a safe supply of domestic water, the construction of a dam on Bulman/Moore Lake, and the aggressive search for sources of groundwater within the Glenmore Irrigation Boundaries.

The 1980's  1985 marked the retirement of another GID long-standing manager, Otto Hemmerling. During his 25 year tenure, Mr. Hemmerling provided astute leadership during times of tremendous changes in the GID distribution system Honesty, personal initiative and an extensive understanding of the system demonstrated that he was the right man at the right time for the District.

Into the '90s and today...
Glenmore and Ellison Irrigation Districts were amalgamated on April 5, 1990 to form the Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District. Today the District supplies over 9000 acres of Land, with 6400 connections (approx. 15,000 people). Water is still collected and stored in Postill, Bulman, South, and McKinley reservoirs. Five wells augment the District's water supply, which is constantly monitored and tested for adherence to Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines. On December 31, 2004 the District acquired the McKinley Landing Water Works and now supplies this area, which is serviced by water from Okanagan Lake.