As residential irrigation systems get blown out and as people put their gardens to bed, the Okanagan Basin Water Board is still watching drought levels closely.
“The rains in the last few weeks have been very welcome and have helped move the province’s drought level for the Okanagan region from 5, as of September 28, to a current level 2,” said OBWB communications director Corinne Jackson.
The fact that irrigation season is over and there is less demand for water has also helped, she added.
That said, she says a number of local creeks have remained at higher drought levels due to low flows which has made them impassable to fish, and some metered groundwater stations are also still showing as below normal levels.
The province uses a six-level classification system to rate drought levels, impacts and response - 0 indicates enough water to meet socio-economic and ecosystem needs, and 5 indicates adverse impacts are almost certain.
“We need to see significant precipitation this fall and winter to help groundwater supplies and reservoirs bounce back,” Jackson said, noting residents and water managers may need to make choices about where water is best used.
“If this doesn’t happen, we could begin the 2024 irrigation season in drought.”
Since 2012, the OBWB’s Okanagan WaterWise public outreach program has run “Make Water Work,” a valley-wide outdoor residential water conservation campaign (with a website at www.MakeWaterWork.ca) to raise awareness for water in the region and help address the second largest use of water in the valley.
The campaign runs from May to October, when competition for water is highest. But as drought continues and the Okanagan is expected to experience a warmer and drier winter due to El Niño, the importance of avoiding water waste remains important.
As such, she says the Okanagan WaterWise program will be turning its attention to encouraging indoor water conservation and helping residents plan and prepare landscapes to be more water efficient and meet the needs of a healthy ecosystem.
In wrapping up the 2023 Make Water Work campaign, two lucky Okanagan residents have each won $500 towards a WaterWise yard upgrade: Shannan Machulski from West Kelowna and Ken De Grott of Vernon.
Not one to enter many contests, Machulski was excited to hear she won.
“A friend and I were looking for water barrel information and found your website,” said Machulski, adding she was looking for ways to save water during this year’s drought while still maintaining her vegetable garden and fruit trees.
“I’m also interested in doing more native planting which will be drought-resistant and hardy.”
In addition to the $500 prize winners, the City of Armstrong was awarded the Make Water Work Community Champion title this year, having collected the most pledges per capita.
The city’s win was acknowledged in September at the OBWB’s annual meeting.
The Make Water Work campaign is delivered in partnership with Okanagan local governments and utilities, as well as several garden centres and irrigation businesses – Blue Mountain Nursery in Armstrong, Nicholas Alexander Landscaping and Swan Lake Market & Garden in Vernon, Ace Hardware in Lake Country, Kel-Lake Garden Centre, Wild Bloom Nursery and ProSource Irrigation in Kelowna, GardenWorks in Penticton, Sagebrush Nursery in Oliver and Sandhu Greenhouses in Osoyoos, and the Okanagan Xeriscape Association.