Okanagan brings fresh ideas to water problems - InfoNews

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Okanagan brings fresh ideas to water problems

March 25, 2013 - 11:30 AM

By Julie Whittet

In the semi-arid Okanagan Valley, water is a precious commodity. Local politicians and environment officials gathered at Manteo Resort Friday to celebrate new solutions to manage water use in the Valley. 

Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, presented a new Excellence in Water Stewardship Award to the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council.

The Council outcompeted 16 other nominees in B.C. to receive the award. Its members are two dozen volunteers who provide critical research to advise the Okanagan Basin Water Board. The award recognizes outstanding leadership and innovation in water conservation, and will be given to each province and territory in Canada for the first time this year.

Thomson, MLA for Kelowna-Mission, says a clean freshwater supply is essential for the health of the Okanagan's citizens, the environment, fisheries, and tourism.

“Clean, safe drinking water is part of the draw that brings tourists to the valley,” Thomson says.

Okanagan cities are investing in new infrastructure to conserve water, and “everybody is doing their bit,” he says. “The tree fruit industry has done a great job in reducing water use with overhead and trickle irrigation.”

However, over-consumption of the region's freshwater supply remains an ongoing challenge.

Current figures indicate that people in the Okanagan consume twice as much water as the average Canadian, says Corinne Jackson, Communications Director for the water board. She says the Canadian average for water consumption is 329 litres per person, whereas the Okanagan average is 675 litres per person. 

The real shocker, Jackson says, is the Okanagan has less water available than anywhere else in Canada. 

Agriculture soaks up the largest portion of the Okanagan's water supply, "but that's working water," Jackson says. "It produces food and sustainable crops."

The real concern is the amount of water people use on their yards and lawns. Jackson says outdoor-residential use accounts for 24% of water consumption in the Okanagan. When residents water their lawn all day and all night, it puts a big drain on the supply.

Jackson says there are easy ways to cut down on water use and still enjoy a grassy backyard:

  • water at night instead of during the day, to reduce evaporation
  • let your lawn grow a bit longer to help retain moisture
  • reduce the size of your lawn
  • use drought tolerant turf

“We realize the need for a lawn,” Jackson says. “It's okay to have a lawn, as long as you're aware of how much you have.”

She urges people to check out their website Make Water Work for more tips on how to use water wisely. 

To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at jwhittet@infotelnews.ca or call (250) 718-0428.


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