OBWB Drought Update #7

Dear Okanagan Local Governments and Water Purveyors,

This is just going to be a short update on Okanagan drought response, to an expanded list of people. Originally, this series began as an update for OBWB directors, fisheries managers, provincial partners, and water utility staff. It’s grown as people have been asked to be added to the list. Today, we’ve added more elected officials and administrators, and people who manage large public green spaces. Please share with your colleagues as you see fit.

Previous updates are given in the email string below, beginning on July 15th. It’s been great to hear that many more utilities have increased their watering restrictions since Drought 4 was announced.

The current Level 4 Drought Declaration (https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2015FLNR0224-001253) is for the entire Okanagan watershed, but my understanding is that the FLNRO regulators will be prioritizing actions depending on the stream or lake, and fish habitats. We’ve had many requests for more specific guidance from the province, but there is now a very large area marked in red on the maps, and the staff are spread thin. I have attached the generic version of the letter that is going out to all Okanagan license holders, for your information. When I was forwarded the letter, it came with the following email from Kimm Magill-Hofmann, the Acting Water Allocation Section Head.

“You will see in the letter, at level 4 we are asking for increased voluntary conservation but there is no target on this (but there is a reminder of the 30% voluntary reduction at drought level 3). At level 4, we are hoping everyone is targeting at least 30% and more if possible. We are asking municipalities to ensure they are compliant with the storage and release requirements as set out in their licenses. We are working with several municipalities within the Okanagan Shuswap Natural Resource District to ensure they are meeting those requirements. If you are unsure of your licensing specifics, we can work with you on that here at the district.”

If you have specific questions I can help find answers to, please don’t hesitate to email me. Also note that the OBWB is hosting a Drought information workshop next week. Please note the change in time for this event since my last update. A separate invite will also be sent, so apologies for cross-posting.

This is to bring together Okanagan local governments and utilities with provincial drought response staff for Q&A and information sharing. Bring your questions. The minister, Steve Thompson, will open with introductory remarks. We’ll have FLNRO staff there from the provincial and regional level, a presentation from the Osoyoos Lake Board of Control, and presentations from ONA fisheries, the BC Cattlemen’s Association, and the BC Agriculture Council, as well as a panel of utility managers.

Date: August 13th, 2015
Time: 12:30pm – 5:00pm
Location: Kelowna Capri Hotel, 1171 Harvey Avenue, Kelowna, British Columbia

Doors open at 12:30 for informal networking, and the program starts at 1pm. It’s a free event, but please register so we can be sure to have enough chairs: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/okanagan-drought-workshop-tickets-18062002937

OBWB is encouraging each utility to work with their customers and encourage conservation – recognizing that every utility has a different water source and a different set of bylaws etc. to work from. One of the recommended actions at Level 3, besides voluntary conservation of 30%, is for local governments and water suppliers to “Eliminate filling of public fountains and watering of public parks, gardens, medians, and similar areas.” The basic idea is to eliminate waste where we can, supporting and encouraging residents to do their part. Also, we’ve been updating our websites with more water conservation information and tips for the public, so please direct them to www.makewaterwork.ca.

Thanks to everyone who’s been in touch. Your comments and questions (and critiques) have been very helpful.