’Severe‘ drought scorching Okanagan

First the forest fires and now the drought.

Searing heat and no rain means groundwater, lake, river and creek levels are at record lows in the Okanagan.

This follows a spring where little new water came into the ecosystem because there was a low snow pack on the mountains to melt.

“It‘s the most severe I‘ve ever seen,” said B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner in an interview with The Okanagan Sunday.

“It‘s extremely bad now and it will only get worse with every passing day of heat and no rain.”

With a heat wave forecasted for the next week, there‘s no relief in sight.

The Okanagan is expected to get searing sun and temperatures in the high 30s for the next few days.

In Kelowna, the main tributary into Okanagan Lake – Mission Creek – is a shadow of its former self with levels so low that parts of its course is dominated more by rocks than water.

The popular Coyote Cruises of inner tubes down Penticton Channel to Okanagan Lake has had to cut the course in half due to low water levels.

While water still comes out the tap when you turn it on, this drought could soon have an impact on residential, business and agricultural water supplies.

“We all have a role in water conservation, especially at times like these,” said Penner, the MLA for Chilliwack-Hope.

“I‘m personally asking people not to wash their cars, water their lawns or take long showers.”

Penner said a clean car and green lawn are cosmetic pursuits that can be pursued when the drought and heat wave are over.

If people are adamant about washing their car he recommends a bucket of soapy water to scrub and a bucket of clean water to rinse – not a running hose.
People that can‘t do without watering their plants and lawns should do it with watering cans and a hand-held sprinkler after dusk when the least amount will be lost to condensation.

After last month‘s forest fires and evacuations in the Glenrosa, Rose Valley and Terrace Mountain areas, we know exactly how tinder dry the bush is and how quickly it can light ablaze and cause chaos.

“There‘s a campfire ban, obviously, and no one should ever throw a cigarette butt on the ground,” says Penner.

“But we also are asking people to do as little ATVing in the backcountry and off road 4x4ing, because exhaust and the slightest spark can cause a fire.”