Okanagan Water Board announces grant awards to address valley water challenges

April 19, 2023

Kelowna, B.C. – It may be Earth Week, but the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB)’s release of its annual $350,000 in grant funding this week will have an impact all year long, with long- term benefits for water. It’s all part of the board’s Water Conservation and Quality Improvement (WCQI) Grant Program.

This week, the local government agency is contacting 16 local governments, non-profits and others who were successful with their grant applications. In all, the OBWB received 22 applications with a total ask of $587,637.

“There was a very good response to the call for applications,” says Carolina Restrepo-Tamayo, OBWB’s Operations and Grants Manager, adding application numbers were back to pre-COVID levels.

Each year, the OBWB’s board of directors adopts a theme for additional consideration when reviewing applications. This year’s theme was “from data to action for community resilience,” encouraging the use of open data developed by the OBWB and others to address Okanagan water challenges.

One of the successful applicants was City of Kelowna for its project “Marinas and drinking water intakes on Okanagan Lake: A data-guided assessment of potential effects of a proposed marina in Sutherland Bay on the Poplar Point intake.” The project will make use of the OBWB’s LiDAR bathymetry data, looking at water depth, as well as information from its Okanagan Basin Water Quality Database.

“It is a very relevant topic,” explained Restrepo-Tamayo. “Development is going to happen and there will likely be more boating on Okanagan Lake. What is the impact of this on water quality? The more aware we are of the issues, the more communities will be able to address concerns,” she said, adding that the study results and proposed solutions may help other Okanagan municipalities when reviewing marina applications.

Another project funded this year is a “Lower Chute Creek Restoration and Reconstruction” project led by the recently-formed Chute Creek Stewardship Society. The project on an Okanagan Lake tributary will address flood protection for residents, but also work with Penticton Indian Band and Okanagan Nation Alliance to include traditional ecological knowledge in creek restoration efforts to bring back the salmon. “It’s a very good example of how a community can come together with a collaborative project to improve and protect water quality,” noted Restrepo-Tamayo.

Okanagan Nation Alliance also received funds for an “Okanagan Reservoir Operation–Optimization Guidance” project. As noted in their application, “historically, reservoir management was largely focused on retaining water to support summer irrigation needs.” Today, reservoir managers also have to manage for flooding, drought, and environmental flow needs to help ensure a healthy aquatic ecosystem. This project will review current management practices, capture historical syilx knowledge and perspectives on water management, and result in a guide to help reservoir managers meet the challenges they are facing.

“This is a great example of merging Indigenous knowledge and western science,” Restrepo-Tamayo said, adding that it will include input from local First Nations, as well as local government, water utilities and provincial staff. “The guide will help address the challenges of today and in the years ahead as we continue to see the impacts of climate change on water availability.”

Including grants and in-kind donations from others, this year’s projects have combined budgets of over $3.37 million going toward water improvements in the Okanagan.

Since the WCQI program began in 2006, and with this latest award of 16 grants, the board has now provided 331 grants to Okanagan non-profits, First Nations, local governments and irrigation districts, worth more than $5.82 mill. in total.

For a full listing of this year’s funded projects and more information on each, please see below. For more information on projects funded over the past 17 years, visit our WCQI database at https://www.obwb.ca/wcqi_project/.

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