It’s easy to become complacent about water when that big lake that runs down the middle of the valley fills right up in spring and then begins to flood what is usually lakeshore.
However, that’s the uncommon, rather than the usual scenario.
A particularly deep snowpack and late melt and runoff this year caused flooding around the valley and high elevation hiking this summer frequently resulted in sightings of snow still remaining from last winter.
We’ve had very weird weather this year, and according to the experts we can expect more of the same. That is, more weird weather, not more of what we got this year. One of the features of climate change is extreme weather conditions such as record snowfalls, rainstorms, heat and drought.
And that’s one good reason to be aware of an international process currently underway that could have long-term impacts on our water supplies.
In the next couple of years the orders governing water levels in the cross-border Osoyoos Lake in the southern part of the valley must be renewed by the International Joint Commission, and one of the considerations will be changing them to require certain flows be maintained across that boundary.
In a drought year, that could be critical to water users upstream. Your water use could be curtailed in order to satisfy those orders if they require that certain flows across the border are maintained.
To fully understand the issue, you have to look at the big picture. The Okanagan basin, our watershed, is ultimately part of the watershed of the Columbia River, in that the Okanagan River flows into the Columbia south of the border and becomes part of the flows that are dumped into the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon, west of Portland.
Sockeye salmon—those that succeed in navigating around the many man-made dams on the mighty Columbia and its tributaries—return up the system to Osoyoos Lake and even upstream in the Okanagan River to spawn. In fact, there was a record run last fall.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance is working toward removing obstacles along the Okanagan River to permit the sockeye to return to Okanagan Lake, where they once spent a portion of their life cycle, far from the ocean.
Both the question of water quantity flowing south into the U.S. and of sockeye salmon returning upstream from the U.S. are issues that will be discussed in presentations by top experts from Canada and the U.S. at a water science forum in Osoyoos Sept. 18, 19 and 20 that’s open to the public.
Speakers will include Washington senator Bob Morton, B.C. MLA John Slater, First Nations representatives, federal and provincial government and university scientists, private hydrologists and those involved with the Okanagan Basin Water Board.
We can’t survive without water in this valley, so it’s a subject that’s of critical importance to us.
By being informed and involved we can have some control over how it’s managed. Attending conferences such as this are one way we can learn and then make decisions based on knowledge.
For more info on the conference, go to the website: www.obwb.ca
If you can spare a little time in the coming weeks, the kokanee in Wood Lake could use your help. The ONA are conducting a thorough count of spawning kokanee from the lake this fall, using a spawner counting fence on Middle Vernon Creek.
It’s a very labour intensive project, so if you could volunteer some time to help with it, contact the Oceola Fish and Game Club at email@example.com or call Rick Simpson at 868-2535.
Incidentally, kokanee are featured at the current exhibit at the Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan in Mission Creek Regional Park on Springfield Road. There are also kokanee interpretive programs at that park and at Hardy Falls Regional Park in Peachland weekend afternoons into early October.
The Kokanee Salmon Festival will be held in the Mission Creek park Sunday, Sept. 18 and there’ll be a mini-festival that day at Hardy Falls park with volunteers from the Peachland Sportsman’s Association.
The Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club is conducting a hike along a portion of the High Rim Trail Saturday, Sept. 10, with Don Guild, and everyone is invited to their regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 13 at Evangel Church on Gordon Drive at 7 p.m., where Hugh Westheuser will conduct a presentation on wildlife in Southern Brazil.
Next hike in their Discover Nature series is Saturday, Sept. 17 with Eileen Chappell and Sylvia Blackburne, exploring upper Scenic Canyon Regional Park, Carter Road Park and portions of Mission Creek Regional Park. For details on any of these go to the website at: www.okanagannature.org
Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues.