The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) wants to spread awareness about water management.
That was one of the main topics at ‘exSTREAMS: The Okanagan water story and you’ Tuesday evening, a forum where residents of the Okanagan could ask questions and learn about the state of water in the Okanagan and how to properly manage it.
“The fact is, in the Okanagan we have less water available than anywhere in Canada, but we have one of the highest per capita uses in the country,” said Corinne Jackson, OBWB Communications Director. “That there is a problem, so the event was about encouraging people to do more and learn what they can do to preserve and protect the Okanagan.”
In the Okanagan, 24% of all water use is used domestically outdoors during summer, which is the second highest use in the region, trailing only agriculture. Margaret Catley-Carlson, the past chair of a UN-affiliated Global Water Partnership and current Vice Chair of the Canadian Water Board was the keynote speaker at the forum, and she had several key points to her address.
“As the population of the world grows, as the population of the Okanagan grows, the amount of water that was once sufficient for the purposes for which it was being used is no longer sufficient,” she explained. “If you want to maintain a standard of living, a standard of environmental health and follow the manifold number of interests that exist on using water, you’ve got to be a lot more careful about the ways you use water. Because the way you used water when there were fewer people and the same amount of water will not carry you into the future when you have more people, higher water demand, and the same amount of water as the dinosaurs. So we have to smarter, and it can be done, but it can’t be done with the business as usual model.”
Catley-Carlson noted there are two misconceptions when it comes to water, with the first being the world is running out of water.
“It isn’t, we’ve got the same amount of water as when the dinosaurs or Julius Caeser or whoever were walking the earth,” she described. “In the parts of the world where rivers are being obstructed, where rainfall is changing as a result of climate change, the impact on people is if they are running out of water. The global fact that we’re not running out of water in terms of rain coming to Earth, going to rivers, going to oceans, evaporating and going back to the glaciers, that’s still the going on the same way it has, just with different temperatures. Although in many places water is getting more and more difficult to get at, we aren’t running out.”
The second myth, highlighted by both Catley-Carlson and Jackson, is the complete opposite of the world running out of water. In Canada, there is a widespread myth of abundance when it comes to water. Catley-Carlson noted that myth leads to a mindset where we don’t regulate and watch how much we use, while Jackson explained despite seeing a large water source in Lake Okanagan on a daily base, the reality is we only have 1.5m of water to play with from the lakes. She added that water is used for everything from crop irrigation to agriculture, homeowners and fire fighting. In short, she said there is only so much water available for residents of the Okanagan to use.
Both women agreed on one thing, which was the overlaying message of the forum; the global issue of water isn’t how much is available, but how it is managed.