There has been ongoing concern that water sources in the valley are close to fully allocated.
The 2010 Okanagan Water Supply & Demand Project examined patterns of water licensing and availability across the valley, and evaluated the potential impacts of climate change.
Estimating Current and Future Supply and Demand
This project was a best estimate of current and future supply and demand in the Okanagan. Natural and managed water flows were assessed by calculating the water balance at 81 points in the valley.
The project’s models helped us understand patterns of water use and the potential impacts of population growth, climate change, land use and the environment. Updated regularly, these models are essential for sustainability planning.
Phase 1 (2005) identified available data and information (1.3Mb PDF). Phase 2 (initiated 2007) led to the development of an Okanagan water budget, or model, for use by local governments for planning, and by the Province of B.C. for water management.
The results obtained in Phase 2 show a need for more careful management and choices about development, the future of agriculture, and environmental protection.
As these choices required informed input from multiple decision-makers and stakeholders, Phase 3 (2010) focused on making data and information available, on refining modeling tools, and on consultation and policy development. It paved the way for updates by collecting data on critical elements such as lake evaporation and groundwater. Phase 3 ensured that the work of Phase 2 was put to best use for planning, adaptation, education, and improved management.
The project was state of the art in Canada, and a pilot for other water-stressed areas of British Columbia. The Water Demand Model developed by this project was reproduced in the Similkameen, Nicola, and Lower Fraser valleys and was a finalist for a Premier’s Award for Innovation. Okanagan local governments have used the models and data to inform regional growth strategies and planning.
Phase 2 Achievements:
- Comprehensive scientific studies on Okanagan water availability and use, for the first time since 1974.
- Two sophisticated computer models for Okanagan water: the Okanagan Water Demand Model estimated water needs for different human uses, and the Okanagan Water Accounting Model estimates natural stream-flows and the effects of water storage and extractions on stream-flows and lake levels.
- Together, these two models allowed us to examine water alternatives: under a changing climate, a growing population, a changing agricultural land base, and increased water use efficiency.
Do all watersheds need a project like this?
There is competition for water resources in many parts of B.C. and western Canada. The Okanagan Water Supply and Demand Project was one of the most ambitious and innovative efforts in Canada with models and tools that can be used elsewhere. However, because the essential data has never been collected, there are few watersheds in B.C. where such a project could be undertaken at this time.
- CHBC News report about the Okanagan Water Supply & Demand Project
- Premier’s Award Finalist – Agriculture Water Demand Model