Irrigation changed Valley

Castanet – April 18, 2021

With Earth Day fast approaching, the Vernon Museum has taken the opportunity to research how local human activity has affected, and continues to affect, ecosystems and wildlife in the North Okanagan. Until the end of April, the museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the results of this investigation.

Picture the Okanagan without its expansive fruit orchards. No juicy peaches and sweet cherries in the summer, and no crisp apples and tart grapes in the autumn.

It is almost painful to imagine.

But this was the reality of life in the Okanagan before the advent of irrigation.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Valley was too hot and dry to support much agriculture, and the manager of the Coldstream Ranch, W.C. Ricardo, proposed investigating Aberdeen Lake on the highlands to the southeast of Vernon as a potential water source to irrigate thirsty crops.

Water flowing out of the lake via Jones (now Duteau) creek, he argued, could be diverted south by canal to supply orchard and fields in White Valley (now Lavington) and the Coldstream Ranch.

This water even had the potential to be directed north across the ranch to irrigate the BX and beyond.

The White Valley Irrigation and Power Company began this momentous task in 1906 with the construction of the Grey Canal.

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