Building Bridges for Okanagan Water in 2012

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” -St. Francis of Assisi

Welcome to 2012.  It is almost 5 months since I began this blog, “Building Bridges,” and the new year, when we traditionally look back and look ahead, seems like a good time to reflect on the message and purpose of these regular Okanagan Water updates.  A novice blogger, I’ve been learning a lot – talking to veterans of social media, water enthusiasts, and my select and devoted readership.

This Christmas was spent with friends at a boat-in cottage - after a thrilling lake crossing. Beautiful, but cold

If there is anything I’d like people to take away, it is the conviction that in a time of change, we have the power to work together and solve water issues as they arise. There are pockets of real problems in the valley, especially with groundwater, and many potential future challenges with climate change, but with planning and collaboration we can avoid severe crises. Starting with what’s necessary, and then carving off what’s possible, we can begin to tackle what now might seem insurmountable.

In work and personal life, I find myself in daily conversations about water. Just today I attended the New Year’s Levee, a celebration by the local chapter of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves, and found myself deep in discussion with the Colonel about water issues in Africa, comparing them to the situation here in the Okanagan.  As a military man, he was concerned about the potential for conflict there, and aware of the need for stewardship here. What on the surface seem like simple questions (“When are we going to run out of water?”), are full of complexity: geography, politics, economics, climate change, culture, history, and almost any field of science and engineering play a part.

A different season, appreciating the warm waters of Okanagan Lake.

This blog is a way to explain the evolving work of the Board and the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council as we work through this complexity: essential background information, breaking issues, hot topics. Water policy is in a period of change in BC, with the re-write of the Water Act, and update of the Columbia River Treaty (not to mention our own local Osoyoos Lake Operating Orders). Here in the Okanagan, by virtue of need and opportunity, we have become a testing area for new ideas and approaches.

We are hugely fortunate to live in a resource-rich province in one of the most stable, peaceful countries in the world. As other parts of the world are affected by economic and environmental strife, pollution, droughts and sea-level rise, Canada will take a larger role on the global stage. I believe that, through efforts to solve our own water issues here in the Okanagan, we can provide an example to others in BC, Canada, and other regions.

I want to close by mentioning the other great resource I’ve appreciated this year: the committed local young people who are excited and passionate about protecting Okanagan water. The following catchy video was made by our award-winning summer intern, Graham Campbell.