Water board wants watershed protected

Members of the Okanagan Basin Water Board have added their voices to those objecting to the lack of consideration given to protecting watersheds in the draft trails strategy for the province.

At the first meeting of the new board earlier this week, members agreed with a letter Dr. Andrew Larder, senior medical health officer with Interior Health, wrote to John Hawkings, manager of the recreation, sites and trails branch in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts.

In it, Larder requested action be taken to ensure drinking water protection is taken into account before the strategy moves forward.

“I strongly encourage you to engage in further consultation with drinking water stakeholders, including health agencies and water suppliers, to identify key issues and possible solutions,” he wrote.

In addition to the lack of consultation, Larder commented, “the picture of the ATV driving through a creek on page four idealizes an activity which has detrimental effects on ecosystem health and water quality.”

The document also fails to acknowledge the risk and liabilities associated with the use of trails in watersheds and their impacts to drinking water quality, he said.

He also pointed out there is currently no means to identify non-compliant recreational users through licence plates or decals, which severely impedes efforts to enforce legislation.

Letters were also sent to Hawkings by the Water Supply Association of B.C.

“Wherever humans are given access to watersheds the risk of sediment and pathogenic contamination of the water supply increases,” they said.

Lakeview Irrigation District manager James Moller wrote that because provincial agencies are under-equipped, under-funded and often unmotivated to monitor recreation use and its impact on watersheds, B.C.’s drinking water is at risk.

The OBWB agreed to write a letter requesting that a strategy for protection of drinking water sources be prominently included in the overall B.C. Trails Strategy.

Board member Toby Pike commented, “Trail networks must be improved without impacting water quality.”

The board elected Kelowna city Coun. Brian Given chairman and Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells its vice-chairman.