Project Overview


There has been ongoing concern that water sources in the valley are close to fully allocated.

The Okanagan Water Supply & Demand Project examines patterns of water licensing and availability across the valley, and evaluates the potential impacts of climate change.

Estimating Current and Future Supply and Demand
This Project is a best estimate of current and future supply and demand in the Okanagan. Natural and managed water flows are assessed by calculating the water balance at 81 points in the valley.

The Project’s models help us understand patterns of water use and the potential impacts of population growth, climate change, land use and the environment. Updated regularly, these models are essential for sustainability planning.

Phase 1 (2005) identified available data and information (1.3Mb PDF). Phase 2 (initiated 2007) led to the development of an Okanagan water budget, or model, for use by local governments for planning, and by the Province of BC for water management.

The results obtained in Phase 2 show a need for more careful management and choices about development, the future of agriculture, and environmental protection.

As these choices require informed input from multiple decision-makers and stakeholders, Phase 3 (2010) focuses on making data and information available, on refining modeling tools, and on consultation and policy development. It paves the way for updates by collecting data on critical elements such as lake evaporation and groundwater. Phase 3 ensures that the work of Phase 2 is put to best use for planning, adaptation, education, and improved management.

This project is state of the art in Canada, and a pilot for other water-stressed areas of British Columbia. The Water Demand Model developed by this project has been reproduced in the Similkameen, Nicola, and Lower Fraser valleys and was nominated for a Premier’s Award for Innovation.  Okanagan local governments have already begun using the models and data to inform regional growth strategies and planning.

How much water do we have, how much water do we use?Phase 2 Achievements:

  • Comprehensive scientific studies on Okanagan water availability and use, for the first time since 1974.
  • Two sophisticated computer models for Okanagan water: the Okanagan Water Demand Model estimates water needs for different human uses, and the Okanagan Water Accounting Model estimates natural stream-flows and the effects of water storage and extractions on stream-flows and lake levels.
  • Together, these two models allow us to examine water alternatives: under a changing climate, a growing population, a changing agricultural land base, and increased water use efficiency.

Do all watersheds need a project like this?
There is competition for water resources in many parts of B.C. and western Canada. The Okanagan Water Supply and Demand Project is one of the most ambitious and innovative efforts in Canada with models and tools that can be used elsewhere. However, because the essential data has never been collected, there are few watersheds in B.C. where such a project could be undertaken at this time.


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