Gateway water system up for grabs

Gateway residents wonder who will have to pay for improved water system

The future of the Gateway Water System (GWS) is uncertain with the aging water-supply system to soon end operations unless a way is found to take over ownership.

About half of the 20 customers on the water system attended a recent meeting held in Gateway to discuss their future water-supply options with GWS owner Randy McRoberts.

Representatives from Ministry of Environment and Interior Health Authority, and Cariboo Regional District (CRD) staff also attended in advisory roles for the numerous options being explored.

The CRD board later reviewed documentation, stating McRoberts will cease operation of the current “40-year-old, poorly constructed” water system in the near future, and the consensus of the water customers at the meeting was to pursue a water system managed by the regional district.

Area H Director Margo Wagner says for that to happen, it would involve designing a new, modernized system of pressure tanks and wells, which is otherwise similar to the existing one.

At its Feb. 17 board meeting, CRD directors allocated up to $3,000 for a feasibility study to investigate the potential to take over responsibility for the system.

Gateway resident Anita Price says she and several others in the area, who are not GWS customers, are concerned they will be expected to pay for a new service they don’t need.

At a subsequent meeting, held Feb. 21 in 100 Mile House, more than 50 area residents turned out, some of whom are not customers, and expressed concerns about the possibility of financial or water supply impacts to them.

Noting she attended the meeting, Price says she would “love” to see improvements bring good, safe water to the residents currently on the system, but adds she shouldn’t have to pay for it.

“The cost is the main issue any of us have with putting it in. I didn’t want to pay [many thousands of dollars] when nobody helped to pay for my well.”

Despite several area residents raising concerns at the second meeting, Wagner notes that after she explained the CRD has no plans to charge non-customers, the consensus was “no different” for moving forward with the study.

However, some residents indicated they were not happy with the fact she could not guarantee there would never be a future impact on non-customers living alongside the potential new system, the CRD director explains.

Price says she is one of those feeling troubled by possible future financial hits from the regional district.

“The concern is that the CRD will not follow through with that promise, people are worried that costs will be put on later that we will have no control over.”

Another issue yet to be addressed is whether a new system could affect the water supply to private wells in the aquifer, she says.

“That was a question that was brought up that was never addressed.”

Wagner explains other options for a private society, or for an organization or individual to take over the system likely aren’t feasible.

Were a society formed by a small group of residents to take over the system, it would face liability issues and prohibitive costs, she says.

The CRD will be holding a meeting to determine the number of interested households before the feasibility study proceeds, Wagner says, and a referendum would take place before the regional district could move forward with a plan.

Meanwhile several area residents remain worried about financial impacts down the road, says Price.

“Now, it’s just whether or not we trust the CRD to put it in and not charge us.”