Having clean and safe drinking water is something many of us take for granted each day. For decades, communities in the B.C. Interior did not have access to clean, safe drinking, which made life incredibly more difficult than it needed to be. For one First Nation community, the Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB), that is not the case anymore, thanks to a first of its kind business venture with Indigenous Services Canada.

Dawson Civil teamed up with Bird Construction to form Bird Dawson Joint Venture (BDJV), which was one of the main contributors to the Irish Creek and Head-of-the-Lake water systems improvement project, to bring the communities clean, uncontaminated drinking water. This project used an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) model. The IPD is a collaborative partnership created to include engineering firms (Urban Systems), contractors (BDJV) and the owner (OKIB), as a way to keep costs down, involve more creative and innovative ideas from all partners, limit the amount of changes to plans and create tighter timelines.

“For our partnership with Bird to be the first of its kind with this project and to bring something as important as clean drinking water to the community, it’s an incredible accomplishment for our company,” said Matt VandenBrink, Dawson Civil Project Manager. “It was a great learning experience to see the many other sides that go into projects.”

Towards the end of 2021, BDJV began the validation process – months of co-locating with the project team to determine budgets, project layout, contingencies, among many other things. In 2022, construction began on water upgrades for the Irish Creek and Head-of-the-Lake water system. Previously, those communities relied on water that contained high levels of manganese, a mineral naturally found in rocks, soil, ground water, air and food products. While a small amount of manganese is essential for human health, too much of it can lead to significant health risks. For decades, the water smelled of rotten eggs and was discoloured, and since 2019, there was a water quality advisory where the water was not recommended for drinking by pregnant women and children under two.

On top of the health issues facing those communities, the water systems in place also lacked adequate storage and proper volume for forest fire prevention, which is a vital service in the hot summer months.

VandenBrink was joined by Dawson Civil teammates Peter Schilling (Project Estimator), Nathaniel Kosovic (Project Coordinator) and Jim Nicholson (Superintendent), while Tylor Bryson (Foreman) and his crew performed the excavation work for the project.

Once underway, BDJV worked alongside multiple trade partners to upgrade the existing treatment plant, install two new reservoirs and a control valve station, tie all the water lines together, and install new fire hydrants along Westside Road. 

Overwhelmingly positive community feedback poured in following the completion of this project.

“We saw several Facebook comments and heard from the community members about how happy they were to not have to boil all their water or go out and buy cases and cases of water all the time. This was a great project to work on, learn and grow as a company, and it left us all with a good feeling knowing that we did something to positively impact so many lives within the community,” said VandenBrink.

Dawson Civil looks forward to working on more IPD projects in the future.