History of Glenmore Ellison Improvement District
'Glenmore' – meaning the great valley
Kelowna is situated in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada. The Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District (GEID) supplies the Glenmore Valley as well as the McKinley Landing and Ellison areas. These areas are now supplied from water from Okanagan Lake and can be supplemented with water sources from the mountains and wells.
2021 marks the 100th Anniversary of when of the Glenmore Irrigation District (GID) now known as the Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District, received its Letters Patent. However, the history of the water system dates back to the first water license granted in 1885. Although simple in theory, developing waterworks proved a slow and frustrating process influenced by powerful land developers, engineering obstacles, difficult climatic conditions, legal disputes, bankruptcy, and economic discrimination. This document summarizes GID’s intriguing history, and its 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.
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 $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 them selves 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 4,000 acres of land 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 and stored approximately 1,500 acre feet. Condemned by the Water Rights Branch in 1932, the dam required complete reconstruction which increased storage to 3,000 acre 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 acre feet of water.
Between the years of 1910-1914, 28,839 feet of concrete-lined and wooden canals and steel flumes were built by Central Okanagan Lands to distribute water to area farms.
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.
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.
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. In January 1921, GID received its Letters Patent and the first Board of Trustees were elected.
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!
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 saw the replacement of the above ground siphon with an underground pipeline made of steel and concrete. Due to severe water shortages in the Mill Creek supply the GID applied for and received a water license on Okanagan Lake in 1931. A pump station was constructed in what is now Sutherland Bay Park. Water lines were installed from the pump station to water all lands south of the Glenmore Ranch. Another booster plant was installed to use that supply to service lands at the south end of Lateral 1.
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 Irrigation District 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 with the Glenmore Irrigation Boundaries.
The ‘80's and ‘90's…
In 1989, 560 acres of land was released from the ALR. Subsequently development increased. Glenmore and Ellison Irrigation Districts were amalgamated on April 5, 1990 to form the Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District. 1993 saw construction of a new Union Road Reservoir and Pump station. In 1994, Postill Pump Station and Reservoir were also being constructed. Quail Ridge Area started to develop in 1994 as well.
Water is still collected and stored in Postill, Bulman, South, and McKinley reservoirs. Three wells, with a fourth under construction, augment the district’s water supply, which is constantly monitored and tested for adherence to Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines.
The District supplied approximately 4000 acres of Grande A land with 3800 connections (approx. 9500 people) domestic connections.
2000's to Today….
In 2002 the Wilden area started to develop. 2006 saw development of
UBCO, Pier Mac and lands at the Kelowna International Airport.
In 2006, The Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District, in conjunction with Agri-Food Canada and the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, implemented an Agricultural Metering program. Over the next few years, the installation of the meters and dole valves were installed for agricultural properties. master dole valves ensure that the amount of water being used at any time is in accordance with the allotment for that property. Dole valves are essential in reducing pressure fluctuations and preventing excessive flow that can damage the water system and cause reduced pressure for all customers. Collection and monitoring of the usage data, is now underway benefitting all of our customers through water conservation and efficiency improvements.
2008 saw the first phase of transmission watermain installed for the future Okanagan Lake source water supply. In 2012 construction of the Joe Bulach Pump Station started. In 2014, Okanagan Lake water began supplying the McKinley Reservoir and the Glenmore Valley.
The McKinley Beach Development began in approx. 2015
In December 2017, in consultation with the Interior Health Authority, GEID lifted the long-standing water quality advisory for the Glenmore area.
The Water Quality Advisory was initially issued to all GEID customers in the spring of 2006. At that time, Interior Health introduced a well-defined set of expectations for all the BC Public water suppliers to meet water quality standards. GEID developed a comprehensive plan to meet Interior Health’s objectives. Over the past 11 years, and with $22 Million of self-funded Capital Expenditures, we have successfully executed a multitude of projects to meet these requirements, and to ensure the future community growth needs are met, while optimizing pre-investments.
The water supply and treatment system includes an innovative 34m deep water intake, designed to inhibit invasive mussel growth; a new pump-station with underground piping running through rough-terrain with a by-pass line through McKinley Reservoir; a two-reactor ultraviolet treatment plant for removal or inactivation of giardia lamblia and cryptosporidium protozoa; a chlorinator treatment plant for virus deactivation, and a 9 million liter enclosed concrete reservoir to store the treated water.
On February 27, 2018 GEID team finalized the complete integration of the McKinley Landing water system. The McKinley landing System is now in normal operation mode, with only back-up from the Dewdney Intake and Pump Station. The GEID water supplied to the McKinley Landing properties now has two levels of treatment, chlorination for a 4 log inactivation of viruses and UV treatment for 3 Log removal or inactivation of giardia lamblia and cryptosporidium protozoa, and is supplied from the Joe Bulach Pump Station, through the enclosed McKinley treatment system.
In September 2018, construction began to bring treated Okanagan Lake Water to Ellison properties that are located within the Regional District of Central Okanagan, and to separate the domestic and agricultural supply. In Fall 2020 the final phase on construction was complete. Domestic water for these properties and ALL properties within GEID’s boundaries are now supplied from our Okanagan Lake source, treated with both UV and chlorine disinfection. Mill Creek water is now only used for agricultural supply.
In 2020, GEID used a combination of surface and ground water sources for water supply. GEID provides water to approximately 23,000 people (approximately 9,600 service connections) in Kelowna, B.C and parts of the Regional District of Central Okanagan. The District has a serviceable area of just over 9,100 acres. 2,018 acres of that are agricultural properties with farm status. The groundwater sources are comprised of 4 wells that are used mostly as back up. Most of the water used by GEID is drawn from Okanagan Lake and Kelowna/Mill Creek. The 2020 source distribution was as follows:
- Ellison Well supplied 1.8% of the total annual demand
- Kelowna/Mill Creek supplied 14.4% of the total annual demand
- Okanagan Lake supplied 83.8% of the total annual demand
In 2021, GEID developed and adopted a new Capital Plan after a complete review of the current District’s conditions. The system review included, water licensing, water source quality, water distribution system hydraulics, development areas, anticipated growth, and financial and economic factors. The completed analysis resulted in the identification of 15 projects that GEID should start implementing within the next five years and 2 future projects that will commence within the next 20 years. The inclusion of the 2 future projects allows the District enough time to collect the portion of the project costs that should be paid by future users. This report will be a useful document for the District’s operation, water rate reviews and communication with approval authorities.