Water conservation should be standardized in valley

To avert a crisis, strategies to conserve water in the Okanagan Valley should be standardized throughout the valley.

After hearing about the model of water conservation in use in Southern Nevada’s desert, some local people in water management are questioning why the Okanagan is not standardizing efforts in this valley.

“We’re doing a lot of good stuff but we’re not consistent throughout the valley, “ commented Ted van der Gulik, a member of the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council and a senior engineer with the agriculture ministry.

“We shouldn’t have to wait for a water crisis to organize ourselves. In fact, we might be able to avert a crisis by planning ahead, and at the least we would be ready when a crisis hits,” he explained.

He would like to see a group like the Okanagan Basin Water Board take the lead in bringing together all of the valley’s communities to talk about standardizing efforts to conserve water.

The Okanagan Valley is the ideal location for such collaboration to occur since there’s basically a single source of water throughout the valley, so everyone benefits from water conservation efforts made in other communities.

Doug Bennett of the Southern Nevada Water Authority spent Wednesday in Kelowna discussing the water conservation measures taken there, at a jointly sponsored workshop put on by the Irrigation Industry Association of B.C., the OBWB and Waterwise.

He talked about the creation of that body from a number of agencies and communities that generally didn’t even communicate with each other, in reaction to a crisis—a drought—20 years ago.

Like the OBWB, the SNWA actually has no authority, instead relying on the joint powers of the various communities that make it up, he explained. Similarly, the OBWB is made up of directors from the three regional districts in the valley, and the OWSC reports to the OBWB on technical matters.

The SNWA now has standardized its water conservation efforts and speaks with a unified voice but respects the role of each of the seven agencies, he explained.

Each sets their own prices, handles billing and reads meters, but uses its collective strength to achieve a number of other goals.

Van der Gulik says the challenge here would be to get everyone to sit down together, but he feels the effort would be well worth it.

Some of the efforts that could be standardized throughout the valley include watering restrictions, metering, enforcement, irrigation technician training and landscape standards, he feels.

About 120 people involved in irrigation and water management signed up for the day’s discussions.



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