Improving Water Management in the Desert of Canada


The Okanagan Valley is situated in the south central region of British Columbia, a region that is well known for orchards, vineyards and a climate that is often considered a semi desert in the southern portion of the valley. The valley is one of the fastest growing population areas in Canada and supports one of the most vital agricultural regions in British Columbia. A large portion of water is supplied to agriculture and valley residents by 35 irrigation districts located throughout the valley. Agricultural production consumes 70% of the water in the valley.

The past fifteen years have seen some of the hottest summers in recent memory. In the late 1980's, early 1990's, the region had consecutive years of low water supplies. The same scenario developed again in 2003 and 2004. Climate change will alter the region’s hydrology, changing from a snow melt spring runoff scenario to higher precipitations in the winter. Most of the water used in the valley is from higher elevation lake storages. The changing hydrology will affect how storages are used and when water is released. Climate change will also result in higher water use for the agriculture sector as the growing season will be longer.

The South East Kelowna Irrigation District ( SEKID ) is located in the center of the valley and was faced with water management problems in the early 1990’s. The district decided to implement a demand management strategy in 1995 to help improve their capability to manage their water resource during times of drought.  The strategy included the installation of meters for all agricultural and new domestic users, the implementation of an irrigation scheduling demonstration program and the development of a data management and water use reporting program.

More information on the results of the scheduling and metering project can be found in the SEKID report attached. The results of the project allowed SEKID to manage their water through the drought of 2003 with very little effect. Other water purveyors in the Valley are now in the process of developing similar programs to mimic what was done in SEKID ten years ago.

SEKID’s story is told very well in the Powerpoint presentation that can be viewed by clicking on the link below.

SEKID Agricultural Water Conservation Program