Gas tax to pay for water study

Some of the federal gas tax you pay is going into better water management in the Okanagan.

A grant of $415,000 toward the $2 million water supply and demand study underway in the valley was announced in Kelowna Friday by Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan.

Okanagan Basin Water Board chairman John Slater described the study as like balancing your cheque book so you know what you have left to spend.

Scientists are gathering information on the quantity of water that’s available in the valley and they need to find out what the balance is. Information will be provided on how much water there is, where it is, when it is available, how much we use and how much will be needed in future.

“They’re using the latest science on climate change to make sure there’s enough water available for growth in the valley,” said Slater.

The work started in 2006 and Slater hopes the first results will be available next year, with completion in 2009.

He said it took the water crisis of the 2003 drought here to galvanize people into realizing the significance of water and the lack of information we have about the resource.

It was then that the OBWB took the initiative to begin gathering information.

The fact the OBWB is a valley-wide body made up of representatives from all three regional districts went a long way towards attracting funding from senior government, Slater said.

“The OBWB is a good model for other region-wide initiatives,” he added.

He admitted having a huge lake running down the middle of the valley lulls people into thinking there’s lots of water here, but he said we can only use 1.5 metres of the lake in a year without the river flowing from it, going dry.

“We don’t want to turn into a Lake Mead, which is down 27 metres,” Slater said.

Not only the environment, but also tourism in the Okanagan depends on the lake, he noted.

“Water is the source of life for all of us,” commented Cannan as he announced the grant.

Both he and Slater emphasized the importance of partnerships in such projects. The water supply and demand study involves a number of federal and provincial government departments, including agriculture and environment, as well as valley governments and the OBWB, as well as universities and research facilities. “It’s all one water, one basin,” said Slater.

“Our quality of life in the Okanagan depends on successfully managing this fragile, common resource,” said Anna Warwick Sears, executive director of the OBWB.

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