Okanagan Lake level well below full pool

Those with lakefront property or boats may already have noticed that the level of Okanagan Lake is a half-metre below full pool, about a third of a metre below what is the normal level for this time of year — and the lake is now at its peak.

The manager of forecasting for the environment ministry in Victoria, Bill Kuhnke, admitted there’s a low natural supply of water this year.

The big lake did not fill during spring runoff of melting snow, as it usually does.

The need for water conservation this year takes on new meaning as inflow to Okanagan Lake in the first six months of the year is at the sixth lowest since record-keeping began, in 1921, and it’s worse than 2003, which was a drought year.

In a presentation to members of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association earlier this month, Des Anderson, section head, public safety and protection in the regional office of the environment ministry, advised growers that inflows to the big lake were 39 per cent of normal between last November and this May.

Just in April/May, inflows were 44 per cent of normal, he said.

Since river and lake levels are expected to be well below normal this summer, he advised growers to modify operations and conserve water as much as possible.

Since his presentation, June’s precipitation was just a little more than a quarter of what it normally is — and it’s usually the wettest month of the year.

And, the forecast is for more dry weather.

With that in mind, provincial and local water officials have met to discuss what measures to take.

John Slater, parliamentary secretary for water supply and allocation under Environment Minister Barry Penner, said, “Consumption has to be reduced. We need a valley-wide drought plan. There’s only one water in this basin.”

Anna Warwick Sears, executive director of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, said she learned that there have been 18 consecutive months of below average precipitation in the Okanagan.

This meeting between officials indicated the province is taking the situation seriously, she feels.

“The message is to be conservative in your use of water. It’s not an unlimited resource, so be careful with what we have,” she commented.