WETLANDS – KIDNEYS OF THE EARTH: “Past land developers did not realize the importance of wetlands, so over 85% of Okanagan wetlands have been filled in or drained. This loss has reduced our ability to manage seasonal floods,”stated Alison Peatt, co-author of Building Climate Resilience in the Okanagan

Note to Reader:

British Columbia’s climate is changing; and change is occurring at a rate much faster than anticipated. In 2019, British Columbians are now in Year 5 of this new reality: warmer, wetter winters; longer, drier summers.

Droughts, dwindling snowpacks, melting glaciers, beleaguered salmon runs and costly forest fire seasons are followed by windstorms and heavy rains. Clearly, we have crossed an invisible threshold into a different hydro-meteorological regime.

The availability of water in the Okanagan valley is snowpack-dependent. Shifting climate is resulting in greater extremes in weather and the availability of water. Extended periods of drought and flooding are expected to occur more frequently in this region.

Responding to this ‘new reality’, the South Okanagan Real Estate Board in partnership with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has launched a new, digital, resource publication titled Building Climate Resilience in the Okanagan: A Homeowner’s Resource Guide.

Hot off the press (May 2019), this guide introduces readers to the Okanagan’s unique environment, the effects of climate change on the region, and provides advice on how to use this knowledge to enhance and future-proof home and properties. 

Understanding the surrounding drainage and past events will help one understand flood risk.


“B.C., and in particular the Okanagan–because of regional collaboration and Indigenous knowledge examples of ecosystem stewardship–is one of the last places on the planet where it is still possible to transcend the currently divisive climate debate and create a truly better world,” says Bob Sandford. He is EPCOR Chair for Water and Climate Security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health.

The Climate in the Okanagan is Changing

“This guide was created to inform local REALTORS® and residents alike about climate resilience for the semi-arid Okanagan,” states Zoe Kirk. When disaster strikes, Zoe is active in the RDOS Emergency Operations Centre – as an Information Officer.

“With drought conditions expected for the summer of 2019 due to the valley only receiving 69% of snowpack last winter and wildfire danger remaining high to extreme, this new homeowner’s resource guide is both timely and relevant.

“The climate resilience guide is a valuable tool for Okanagan residents to future proof their properties from the ongoing effects of climate change.”

Zoe Kirk is Public Works Projects Coordinator,  Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS). In 2017, Zoe received a National Water Canada Award in the ‘Innovation in Government’ category for years of cost-effective, creative outreach activities.

Guide Synthesizes Complex Issues into Key Messages

“The guide summarizes climate challenges, and introduces solutions to support Okanagan homeowners in their efforts to protect and enhance their real estate investment from the ongoing challenges of climate change,” continues Eva Antonijevic, lead author.

“The reason there is a need for a guide like this is because there are so many single topic issues, but there’s nothing put together that covers the whole spectrum of challenges facing South Okanagan homeowners.

“The goal of the guide is to raise awareness and identify key actions homeowners can take to protect properties from flood, drought, fire, and invasive species.”

About Eva Antonijevic: Experienced in conducting environmental education programming and organizing hands-on community projects, Eva is the program coordinator acting on behalf of three organizations: Regional District Okanagan Similkameen, South Okanagan Real Estate Board and Okanagan Xeriscape Association.

Interweaving Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science

“Interwoven throughout the booklet are Syilx Okanagan Peoples perspectives. The Syilx Okanagan Nation was keen to participate in the guide to share their intergenerational knowledge of land, water, species and fire management for our shared region expressed in their own voice and language.

“The Syilx Okanagan Nation siwɬkʷ Water Declaration serves as a living document on the Syilx Okanagan People’s relationship tosiwɬkʷ (water) which is based on reciprocity and responsibility and has been passed down to them since time immemorial.

Scope of Climate Resilience Guide: “Directed at both new comers and long-time residents, the guide illustrates cost-effective investments that create safer, more resilient communities and provides and illustrates simple options to modify homes and landscaping.

“Each chapter is like an executive summary that links to further reading. Online research can then be done by clicking through over 70 suggested links which will provide a deeper dive into the topics addressed in the guide.

“The chapters in the guide include topics such as Climate, Water (floods and droughts), Fire, Insurance (as it relates to floods and fire), Energy Efficient Buildings, Invasive Species, Biodiversity, Food Security. These subject matters are interconnected and overlap.”

Wetlands – Kidneys of the Earth 

The task for the multiple guide authors was how to synthesise all these complex issues into key messages that would help the homeowner connect the dots. Hence the resource guide helps the reader link concepts such as the loss of wetlands to increased flood risk,” explains Alison Peatt.

“Past land developers did not realize the importance of wetlands, so over 85% of Okanagan wetlands have been filled in or drained. This loss has reduced the region’s ability to manage seasonal floods.”

Alison Peatt interacts with various groups including landowners, developers, planners, qualified environmental professionals government representatives, realtors and the public to facilitate efficient and effective environmental planning.

Protecting the remaining wetlands and providing additional areas for water absorption (e.g. rain gardens) are important actions that will help reduce the effects of flooding (photo credit: Eva Antonijevic)

A Unique Collaboration

“The climate resilience guide resulted from a unique collaboration between the South Okanagan Real Estate Board, Regional District Okanagan – Similkameen and RBC Blue Water Fund along with other partners, including Syilx Okanagan Nation, Firesmart Canada and Firesmart BC, local governments, NGOs, conservation groups, landscape organizations and associations,” reports Zoe Kirk.

A First in Canada

“The climate resilience resource guide for homeowners is ground-breaking work. This is the first time in Canada that a realtor association is taking the lead to educate realtors and homeowners about what they can do to prepare themselves and their communities to face the challenges of climate change events,” stated Kelly Johnston, Executive Director, Firesmart® Canada in providing a big picture context for the guide.


Know if you live in a flood risk area. Living on an Okanagan property can be idyllic, but knowing the landscape, climate and weather conditions helps to manage risks and avoid problems.

DID YOU KNOW THAT: Compared to other countries, Canada has a very high per person use of water of 329 litres per person per day. And in the Okanagan, with its semi-arid climate, this doubles to 675 litres of water per person per day. At the same time, the region has less water available per person than anywhere in Canada.

“Understanding how wildfires travel onto private property helps homeowners understand how to reduce risks of property damage,” states Eva Antonijevic. (photo credit: Dave Moorman)

Illustrations from the Climate Resilience Guide for Homeowners