Okanagan Basin Water Strategy Underway


The following article is an excerpt from :

Growing Together newsletter  –  Fall 2005 issue . . . . . . .








With the population of the Okanagan Valley expected to triple, from 350,000 people to 1,000,000 in the next twenty-five years, concerns are growing over the future availability of water in the region and the potential of a serious water shortage.

The impact on agriculture could be even more serious as the industry currently uses 70% of the water in the Okanagan basin. Researchers at UBC and the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre predict that climate change will see snow packs in the area decrease as the climate warms and snow levels recede to higher elevations. Current water storage will be limited if, as expected, the snow pack melts earlier and the timing of precipitation changes. And additional irrigation will be required to support crops grown in hotter temperatures and over a longer growing season.

These concerns, and many others, have led to the Okanagan Basin Water Strategy spearheaded by the B.C. Ministry of Environment and supported by the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, the Okanagan Water Basin Board and many water purveyors in the region.

“The strategy is intended to provide the planning tools necessary for all levels of government, producers and the public – to begin making choices on how to optimize water use,” says Ted van der Gulik, Senior Engineer with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

The first phase of the project, begun in 2004, covered an extensive review of all existing material and data on water usage in the Okanagan. The second step, now underway, entails working with local governments to prepare a detailed assessment of water supply and demand in the area. This analysis will lead to the completion of computer models and simulations aimed at providing all levels of government with the information required to assist in making future land and water use choices.

“There is no question that the only way to mitigate this pending water shortage is to begin to look at this issue on a regional basis, because everyone in the Okanagan – farmer, resident, business, and government agency – shares the same water basin,” said van der Gulik.

For more information, please contact:

Ted van der Gulik, Senior Engineer

BC Ministry of Agriculture

Tel: 604.556.3112