SEKID: Performance Measurement in the Agricultural Sector

A directed studies project initiated in January 2004 set out to investigate performance measurement of water conservation programs in B.C. and other jurisdictions. One case study of note involves the South East Kelowna Irrigation District (SEKID), where 85 percent of the water supply is used to irrigate crops. Metering these agricultural connections has not only reduced water demand, but has also made it possible to verify actual water requirements, both for individual landowners and for the district as a whole.


SEKID’s water is supplied by storage reservoirs, which are filled by runoff from winter snow pack over a watershed of only 25 square miles. With limited options for developing additional supply, water demand management is critically important. The district has been further challenged by prolonged drought, which has reduced spring reservoir levels substantially and increased irrigation demand.

Program Delivery and Results

SEKID launched its agricultural metering program in partnership with Agriculture Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF). When first introduced in 1994, the program was highly controversial, and the district sought to address landowner objections and concerns by initially undertaking only educational activities. Meters were installed and used to collect data from more than 400 irrigation connections. For each irrigated property, monthly meter data and information on crop type, irrigation system, and soil type were entered in a database, and combined with climate data. A computer program calculated the amount of water that should actually be required to irrigate each property, and generated a monthly water use report for the landowner, which compared this amount with both metered water use and the average water use of similar properties. In addition to helping educate landowners to use water efficiently, the report was also valuable as a tool for identifying landowners with high water use, who could benefit most from educational efforts. Landowners also attended field days where they learned about efficient irrigation scheduling techniques.

In 1998, a record demand year, district staff used meter data to reassess SEKID’s drought year requirement (i.e. the amount of water required under drought conditions), and found that actual water demand in the district was 10 percent lower than had been estimated when the system was originally designed, and that this water savings could support an additional 600 acres of irrigated land. Most of this reduction in demand could likely be attributed to the metering program. Staff also compared the cost of implementing the metering program to the value of the surplus water created, which revealed a cost-benefit ratio of 1.5:1.

An annual water allotment for irrigation services, based on the drought year demand requirement defined through analysis of meter data, was implemented in 2001. Landowners received regular water use reports that provided an update on the amount of water used and how much of the allotment was left. In 2003, the district took action to discourage excessive water use by implementing an inclined block rate for use in excess of the allotment, increasing the rate incrementally with each ten percent increase in water use.

These measures have accounted for additional water savings: While demand in 1998 was 22 percent above average, demand in 2003, one of the driest years on record, was only 2.7 percent above average. As a result, the volume of water in the reservoir was actually greater on December 31st, 2003 than it was on January 1st of the same year.

Initial Program Costs

  • Meter installation $606,000
  • Data collection water use reports (1994-2000) including MAFF software development costs of $37,000 $ 60,000

Ongoing Program Costs

  • Meter reading and maintenance – (average per year, 2001-2003) $ 10,000
  • Landowner water use reports – (average per year 2001-2003) $ 2,200

For more information visit or contact SEKID’s general manager, Toby Pike, at 250-861-4200 or



South East Kelowna Irrigation District: Agricultural Metering Program Review

Toby Pike, June 2004