There hasn’t even been a first meeting yet, but water utilities, the regional district and other users plan to work together to better manage Mission Creek by creating a water use plan.
It will include cooperating to manage releases from the storage reservoirs in the creek’s watershed to ensure there are fish flows remaining in the fall for spawning kokanee, without compromising water supplies for licensed domestic and agricultural users.
Phil Epp, a hydrologist in the ecosystem branch of the environment ministry said it started as a discussion with Black Mountain Irrigation District, and grew to include the South East Kelowna Irrigation District and the Central Okanagan Regional District.
Some funding has been identified, including $25,000 from the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, but it hasn’t been decided what sort of issues they will tackle, said Epp.
However, he said water quantity will be the focus, with quality a side issue.
“It’s the highest value fisheries watershed in the Okanagan and there are discussions every dry fall about maintaining adequate water for fish,” he explained.
With such a big watershed there’s a lot of water available, and he feels it should be possible for it to be managed more efficiently, with better coordination from all parties involved.
There’s a lot of fluctuation in the amount of water available in Mission Creek, he noted.
Results from the plan will be plugged into the larger water supply and demand study underway for the Okanagan.
Steve Matthews, section head for the ministry in Penticton said he’s hopeful the plan will help to better balance needs on the creek.
“There are lots of ways to improve water management without anyone losing. More storage could be one way; conservation is another,” he commented.
Such an approach is more about sharing the resource than about competing for it, commented Anna Warwick Sears of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.
Good hydrologic streamflow data will be needed for proper management, she said.
A similar use plan was done for Trout Creek in Summerland after fish were killed when it ran dry.
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