Each of the Okanagan’s 101 water supply districts is different, depending on their sources of water supply, their reservoirAn artificial lake used to store water storage, and their location in the valley.
These differences make some suppliers more vulnerable if dry periods occur with greater frequency.
To reduce the risk of water shortages, water managers have a range of options from increasing reservoirAn artificial lake used to store water storage to reducing water demands through conservation and improved efficiency.
Many of these improvements will require additional investment, although in general, reducing demand is much more cost effective than expanding storage.
The models produced through this project will provide new tools to help water managers optimize their systems. Development of drought response plansStrategies that outline the actions to be taken before, during, and immediately after a drought to reduce its impacts. by each water supplier will reduce the impacts of water shortages on residents, farms and businesses.
Why don’t we just build more storage?
Most of the best storage locations are in use. Historically storage in Okanagan Lake (the Okanagan’s largest “reservoirAn artificial lake used to store water) has taken place by managing lake levels within bounds set by the 1974 Okanagan BasinLand area from which water drains towards a common pointThe Okanagan watershedLand area from which water drains towards a common point, or basinLand area from which water drains towards a common point, is a narrow strip that spans from Armstrong, British Columbia, Canada to the US border and includes five main lakes – Okanagan, Kalamalka-Wood, Skaha, Vaseux and Osoyoos – and surrounding mountains. The Okanagan BasinLand area from which water drains towards a common point includes all the land that feeds water to our big lakes, and is almost 200 km in length and 8,000 km2 in area. Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton and Osoyoos all lie within the Okanagan BasinLand area from which water drains towards a common point. Study. Drawing the lake lower than these bounds is believed to increase risk of lake levels not recovering should the winter have less precipitation than normal; Raising the lake higher than these bounds risks flooding in low-lying areas. Some upland reservoirsArtificial lakes used to store water can be expanded or improved, but costs are high.
How much water is available for licensing?
This decision depends on how much risk we are willing to bear with respect to water shortages, and the location of the water source. The project also compares the amount licensed to the amount that is actually used by those licensees.
Why is there a problem if we have more licence capacity than we use?
For agriculture, large licences create a buffer for when there are dry conditions. For municipalities, large licences allow “room” for future development. But we don’t always have the water to “prove out” the licences, especially for water utilities that depend on upland reservoirsArtificial lakes used to store water. Many water suppliers also have to release substantial flows for fish and ecosystemA system in which populations of species group together into communities and interact with each other and the abiotic environment flows.
- OBWBOkanagan Basin Water Board – Local Government User’s Guide to the Okanagan Water Supply & Demand Project (4.3Mb PDF)
- Living Water Smart Blog
Join the conversation on the proposed new Water Sustainability Act
- Dealing with Drought – A handbook for water suppliers in BC (1.16MB PDF)
- Directory of Okanagan Water Professionals