Focus on Action
At its peak in the 1980s, the National Hydrological Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada (Formally Known As: Water Survey of Canada), in collaboration with the province, operated 156 stations in the Okanagan, which had decreased to 25 stations by 2007, where it remains today. In 2003, the B.C. government commissioned a business review of the B.C. hydrometric program (Azar et al., 2003 ), which concluded that public investment in the B.C. hydrometric program provided a 19:1 return on investment (p. viii of Azar et al., 2003). That report further concluded that the lack of leadership, focus and dedication has led to “neglect which, in turn, has created a program on the brink of collapse” (p. 50).
A 2008 review of hydrometric requirements for the Okanagan Basin (Letvak and Dobson, 2008 ), commissioned by the OBWB and the province, included the following recommendations:
- expand the Okanagan hydrometric network to 160 stations,
- implement a standards system for collected hydrometric data, and
- establish and implement a permanent managed data warehouse.
Today, the Okanagan hydrometric information network has been expanded as a result of OBWB project funding. In addition, there now exists an informal ad hoc network of 75 stations operated by a range of third-parties. Data derived from this informal network is not coordinated into a single database for management and dissemination.
Hydrometric (water level and streamflow) information is essential for Okanagan water management decisions, such as municipal infrastructure planning and design, flood management, determination of fish flow needs, and water supply and demand modelling. The OBWB’s five-year Strategic Plan (2020-2024 ) recognizes the importance of improving hydrometric data for water management in the Okanagan. The existing Okanagan hydrometric network is inadequate to meet the current and future water management needs of government (local, Okanagan Nation, senior) and the private sector.
The Board has approved a new Hydrometric program (Terms of Reference ) expanding the current Okanagan hydrometric information network led by the Okanagan Basin Water Board. The responsibilities of the OBWB coordinated hydrometric information program would include:
- establishing new hydrometric monitoring stations;
- managing hydrometric information; and
- coordinating hydrometric resources and publication of data for ready access.
Any OBWB-led initiative to develop and manage an adequate hydrometric network in the basin requires collaboration with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, senior governments and Okanagan water purveyors.
Proposed expansion of the Okanagan hydrometric network, funded by OBWB
Implementing an expanded hydrometric information program would be a phased approach with a focus on demonstrating early successes and tax-payer value. An ad hoc committee provided input on the current Okanagan hydrometric information network and future hydrometric needs, with support from local governments and the Okanagan Nation Alliance.
Return on investment
Accurate and current hydrometric network data is essential for Okanagan government planning and management decision-making, and a regional hydrometric information network is estimated to provide at least a 19:1 return on investment (Azar et al., 2003 ).
Based on experience over the past 12 years, unless the OBWB takes the lead in developing a hydrometric information network, the likelihood of expanding the current network in the near future is low. The OBWB’s new hydrometric information network program will ensure another decade of critical hydrometric data is not lost.
- Real-time Water Data
- Manual of British Columbia Hydrometric Standards
- Hydrometric Forms
Hydrometrics Resource Library:
- Map of Hydrometric Network in the Okanagan Basin
- Audit of the National Hydrometric Program (2010)
- Hydrometric network requirements for the Okanagan Basin (Dobson 2008)