UBC students explore small water system issues in rural BC

Three undergraduate students from UBC’s Okanagan campus have been visiting small West Kootenay communities

  • Sep. 13, 2014 7:00 p.m.

Three undergraduate students from UBC’s Okanagan campus have been visiting small West Kootenay communities, interviewing residents to better understand the challenges and issues of watershed management.

“Small watershed management is important,” says Ted Wannop, economics undergraduate in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences. “It supplies humans with arguably their most fundamental need for survival: clean water.”

Some communities in B.C. are struggling to provide safe drinking water through their small distribution systems and there is little public funding available for most districts to deal with watershed issues, says Wannop.

Under direction of John Janmaat, associate professor of economics and regional innovation chair in Water Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Wannop and fellow undergraduate students Quinn Rochon and Maryssa Soroke set out to tackle the problem.

The research team mailed about 700 letters to people in the West Kootenay regions of Glade, Salmo, Crescent Valley and Kootenay Lake, with the goal of doing about 100 in-person interviews.

“Small water system issues we’ve identified thus far tend to be around the age and quality of infrastructure, as well as boil-water advisories, or even do-not-consume advisories, “ says Janmaat. “The reasons are varied: sometimes communities just don’t have the funds to upgrade their system, or they can’t afford to hire the kind of expertise necessary to operate the system.”

The team also found that municipalities can be reluctant to work with government agencies. Janmaat notes that communities are growing, and expectations vary significantly about how water should be managed, delivered and used.

The UBC research team also conducted detailed interviews with about 30 experts from across B.C.

Their interview findings, along with the results from a literature review, will be analyzed and presented to help decide the feasibility of a long-term research project.