The Okanagan Basin Water Board hosted a two-day meeting of scientists in Kelowna last week to kick off the second phase of a two-year, $550,000 study evaluating the long-term availability of water in the valley.  The BC Ministry of Environment, which is co-sponsoring the study, is reluctant to issue further large-scale water licenses without better information about the sustainability of the resource.  Given the Okanagan’s arid climate and growing population base, the valley’s water supplies are a key concern for all levels of government.  

The Water Supply & Demand Study requires careful analysis of stream inflows, rain and snow patterns, evaporation rates, and return flows – a challenge because limited data is available.  Current and future water demands of agriculture, fisheries and the Okanagan’s growing urban centers will be evaluated in light of changing water supplies due to global climate change, a diminished snow pack and the profound hydrological impacts of Mountain Pine Beetle – along with other factors.  Scientists and water suppliers throughout the basin are collaborating to collect and evaluate Okanagan water information, building a database that will support advanced computer modeling programs to do the analysis.  

“This study is essential,” said Anna Warwick Sears, Water Stewardship Director for the Water Board.  “It is impossible to do long-term planning in an information vacuum.”  The Board is seeking cooperation from water suppliers, and end users in the basin to gather the required data for the study.  Information will be made available to the public throughout the process by the Okanagan Basin Water Board.  The Okanagan Water Supply & Demand Study is due for completion in the summer of 2008.

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If you’d like more information on this topic please contact Anna Warwick Sears at the Okanagan Basin Water Board, (250) 550-3779 or email [email protected] ; Greg Armour at the Okanagan Basin Water Board (250) 550-3773 or email [email protected] ; or Wenda Mason at the Ministry of Environment (250) 356-8384 or email [email protected]