Kelowna’s mayor says city was slow to respond to drought this summer

Mayor Colin Basran says he and his council must take the blame for slow drought response.

Kelowna’s mayor says his city was slow off the mark to respond to this summer’s drought—and he and his council have to take the blame.

Mayor Colin Basran told council Monday that it’s now up to council to make sure that does not happen again.

“I’ll be blunt,” said Basran. “Our response to the past drought was slow and we, as council, have to wear that.”

As a result, Kelowna city council has decided to make residential lawn watering by even-numbered houses on even-numbered days and by odd-numbered houses on odd-numbered days a permanent rule for residents.

The odd-even system, as it is known, was introduced as a temporary measure in the city when the province declared the Okanagan to be in a stage 4 drought this past August.

Permanent odd-even watering regulations are in place year-round in many other Okanagan cities and towns.

In Kelowna, the city’s water utility covers just 17,000 properties and about half the population. The rest receive their water from a myriad of other irrigation and improvement districts.

City staff report that while the city has been successful in bringing down the average amount of water used per household in recent years, more work needs to be done.

As a result, introduction of the odd-even watering restricting will be complimented by other measures.

City utility services manager Kevin Van Vliet said changes could be made to residential water metres as many of the ones currently in use are nearing the end of their lives and will need to be replaced.

But he said what is needed ultimately will be a “change in the culture” of water use here.

A very low snow pack from last winter, the early arrival of spring weather and abnormally high temperatures early in the year all led to the province proclaiming a drought in the Okanagan and other parts of the province this year.

As a result, many communities across B.C. took strong measures to conserve water, some that included banning all residential lawn watering during the summer.