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Kelowna News

Water managers preparing for longer-term Okanagan drought

Rose Valley reservoir in West Kelowna.

KELOWNA - While they are still in the midst of dealing with this year’s widespread drought in the southern B.C. the province’s top water managers are already looking ahead to next year.

“Current weather patterns is for a strong El Nino blob off the coast. It is setting up the scenario for a drier than normal winter and hot dry conditions next year,” natural resources minister Steve Thomson said, ahead of a drought workshop hosted by the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

Much of southern B.C is in under a level four drought advisory, including the Okanagan region.

While the reservoir supplies for most water providers in the Okanagan are in reasonable shape, water managers concede the problem could come in the fall when reservoirs would normally begin replenishing themselves.

Valerie Cameron, operations director for the provincial drought response plan, told the assembly of water experts the province is preparing for the chance of another drought next year.

“We’re preparing for drought in the long haul," she say. "Environment Canada is predicting warmer weather through the fall at least into November and possibly into next year.”

Cameron says its important now for regional and local water managers to have an understanding of the drought plan and what could happen if the drought continues.

The province has already asked water providers to voluntarily reduce consumption by 30 per cent which most have done by implying staged restrictions on outdoor water use.

Thomson says level four drought advisory does provide for increased regulatory intervention, something he predicts will become increasingly necessary as water use restrictions tighten.

“There are people who haven’t grasped the magnitude of what it is we’re facing as we still see across the province in areas where there are restrictions put into place; there have been challenges with people complying with them," he says.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at jmcdonald@infonews.ca or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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