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Snow-free winter leading to water worries

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 | 12:34 pm

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Mission Creek is reduced to a winter trickle underneath a blanket of snow and ice. The stream is one of the main sources of water flowing into Okanagan Lake. (Photo Chris Stanford)

Mission Creek is reduced to a trickle beneath snow and ice. The (Photo Chris Stanford)

By Kathy Michaels

What’s looking like one of the drier winters in recent memory has water wonks readying themselves for another stressful year.

“The concerns have to do with the precipitation we have this year and trying to catch up for last year,” said Anna Warwick Sears of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, pointing out some areas of the Valley are worse off than others.

In the South East Kelowna Irrigation District conditions are particularly challenging. Last year, reserves only made it to 67 per cent of their normal level,  said Toby Pike, general manager of the irrigation district.

That shortfall forced them into stage two water restrictions which meant their predominantly farmer-based clientele had to cut back to 80 per cent of their water allotment. Something Pike noted was  tough on orchardists who have already been struggling to make ends meet.

Only a month into 2010, conditions aren’t looking much better.

“Right now we have 80 per cent of what would be normal this time of year…we are a little light going into summer, so we’re monitoring and considering what actions we will have to take,” he said.

“Everybody has been concerned. Westbank was on stage two restrictions last year, and the Greater Vernon Water District has looked at their snow pack and are already wondering if they will have to implement restrictions.”

Pike said one can never tell what the future may bring and all it takes to turn things around is a few good dumps of rain or snow, but Environment Canada does set out long-range forecasts for precipitation and meteorologist Doug Lundquist pointed to a particularly brown future when asked what’s to come.

“In the next two months there’s an 80 per cent chance that it will be drier than normal,” said Lundquist.

“That said, the long range forecast reliability is weak, we only need one rainy month and that can help to wet things up.”

While Lundquist is optimistic, Pike pointed out that the Farmer’s Almanac has presented a similarly dry view of the months to come, though “hopefully, they’re wrong.”

If not, the Okanagan Basin Water Board is working on a Valley-wide drought action plan that will offer ways for varying bodies of government to adapt what’s looking to be a regular occurrence.

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2 Responses to “Snow-free winter leading to water worries”

  1. wendy johnston says:
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    The city needs to be more water wise for sure. AND it needs to hold their citizens accountable for the water they use. Living in a complex that waters the lawn nightly for three seasons boils my blood. Such a waste for “looking nice”. I am certain that the nightly watering only makes the grass more water dependent. I have brought my concerns to the powers that be and they scoff. On Salt Spring Island there is more respect for fresh water. They have pretty much only one source and most people do not water their lawns. If they dry out, so be it. Most homes do not have children that play on those lawns anyway. Now that is water conservation. Come on Kelowna. In years past we haven’t even done the alternate watering like other communities in this valley. We are not a good example of water stewardship or conservation.

  2. Phil says:
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    I think the problem here is that most people just plain don’t care. Along the lines of “What i have to get up and change my sprinkler system?” or “What why do i have to sacrifice my green beautiful lawn?”

    Don’t get me wrong I like a green lawn like the next guy… but seriously we are living in a DESERT!!!!!! The water we have is precious as is and here we squander it on watering lawns that have grass which has no business in this climate.

    That being said you can have your lawn be green but educate yourself about what type of lawn you should put down when you build or before you consider another major garden investment. Our soil is plain not conducive to most types of grass and hence requires up to 10 times more water. The problem with that is that by watering ten times more you are putting more water into the sandy soil than the grass is actually getting meaning you waste a good 80% of the water…

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link

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