Letter: City not doing its share to conserve Kelowna resources

Before calling on existing residents to accept a lower quality of life…local governments should put a halt on…new residential construction.

To the editor:

A lot has been said and written recently about the local drought, water shortages, and conservation. Government officials have once again called for everyone to act responsibly and to conserve water in light of the past hot and dry summer in the Okanagan. Some of them have even suggested that this is not a one-time occurrence but rather the “new normal” brought about by climate change.

But are these same government officials doing everything they can in order to conserve water for existing residents by putting a check on further population growth? Heck no! Growth continues unabated in the region and is even encouraged.

In the greater Kelowna area 730 new homes were built in the first half of the year according to the CMHC. Add at least 1,500 more water-sucking residents to the regional population right there. Furthermore, the City of Kelowna itself boasted $229 million in building permits for that time period, the second highest on record, and city staff told city council recently that 2015 could see the highest-ever level of new construction.  There is a foul smell here, and it is the smell of hypocrisy.

In the 2006 joint report by Environment Canada and UBC, Participatory Integrated Assessment of Water Management and Climate Change in the Okanagan Basin, British Columbia, the authors concluded that even the aggressive implementation of residential conservation measures will not be enough to offset the supply-demand gap in water as a result of climate change and population growth, and they call for further government interventions. However, local government officials aren’t listening as they only hear what they want to hear, which is what they are told by the business community. I suggest that one of these interventions be the halting of further residential growth.

Before calling on existing residents to accept a lower quality of life by conserving water and cheerfully watching their lawns turn brown, local governments should put a halt on issuing any more development permits for new residential construction. Only after these same governments have done everything in their power to save water, should existing residents be asked to lower their quality of life. Otherwise, in my humble opinion, residents have no obligation to cooperate.

John Zeger, Kelowna