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Okanagan water project grants focus on drought

Okanagan Basin Water Board hands out $350,000 for 14 projects

The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) has awarded $350,000 to 14 projects through its annual Water Conservation and Quality Improvement Grant Program.

The grants are available to Okanagan local governments and First Nations, irrigation districts and non-profit organizations.

This year, the board of directors chose “drought resilience” as the annual theme, to encourage projects aimed at the prevention, management, and/or mitigation of drought or water shortages across the Okanagan Basin.

In all, the board received 23 applications with a combined ask of $631,725.

“It was very competitive this year with a lot of high-scoring proposals,” said Carolina Restrepo-Tamayo, OBWB’s office and grants manager.

With 90 per cent of the applications related to this year’s drought theme, Restrepo-Tamayo said, “That says to us that local government, non-profits and others, see the need to be proactive in addressing this issue.”

Of the 14 projects approved for funding, 10 are directly related to drought issues.

Among the successful applicants is the Black Mountain Irrigation District for its “Ideal Lake Reservoir Release Project.”

This project aims to install remote control hardware and allow the utility to improve efficiency and respond to real-time streamflow conditions, releasing water from Ideal Lake as needed to address drought and environmental flow needs, including the needs of fish.

This project is seen as a potential example for other Okanagan water utilities and would also be a relevant project if a Mission Creek Water Use Plan becomes a reality.

Another proposal with potential valley-wide implications is the City of West Kelowna’s “Okanagan Watershed Recovery for Drought Resilience” proposal.

The city noted that extended drought in the Okanagan has resulted in a decline in water availability in local reservoirs, exacerbated by reduced watershed resilience due to logging and wildfires.

Flashy freshet flows and low summer flows are also issues, compounded by climate instability and increasing populations.

Its proposal includes a review of upland water storage options.

The OBWB sees the project as enhancing water quality and hydrology in the area which can benefit local communities.

It also has the potential to reverse damage from logging, wildfires, and motorized recreation.

Another successful applicant was the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) for its, “groundwater–stream exchange on alluvial fans of the Okanagan.”

This project addresses a significant gap in understanding flows from groundwater into Okanagan Lake.

As noted by the ONA, surface flows on alluvial fans are crucial for fish access to spawning and rearing habitats, especially during low flow periods in the valley.

However, the extent of water exchange between streams and groundwater on these fans, and its relationship with human water use, remains poorly understood.

This project will answer this question which could help inform lake-level management, provincial water licensing, and habitat and species protection.

With OBWB grant funding along with additional grant support from others, this year’s 14 projects have combined budgets of over $2.1 million going toward water improvements in the Okanagan.

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Water conservation and quality improvement grant recipients

•Okanagan Nation Alliance

Impacts of Dam Operations in the McDougall Watershed Following Wildfire


•Okanagan Nation Alliance

Groundwater – stream exchange on alluvial fans of the Okanagan Valley – Phase 4


•Okanagan Nation Alliance

Water Quality Assurance during the Construction of Okanagan River Restoration in Okanagan Falls


•City of West Kelowna

Okanagan Watershed Recovery for Drought Resilience


•BC Wildlife Federation

Water, Water, Everywhere: Swan Lake Wetland Restoration


•Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program

Wetland Research for Climate and Land use Impacts


•District of Lake Country

Beaver Lake Chain and Vernon Creek Water Management Plan


•Living Lakes Canada

Collaboratively Mitigating Development and Climate Impacts to

Foreshore Values on Wood and Kalamalka Lakes


•Township of Spallumcheen

Source Water Quality Sampling in Deep Creek


•Regional District of North Okanagan

Duteau Watershed Fire and Drought Weather Monitoring Station


•Black Mountain Irrigation District

Ideal Lake Reservoir Release Automation


•City of Kelowna

Drought Resilience Audit Program


•District of Summerland

Source Protection Response Plan


•Vaseux Lake Stewardship Association

Vaseux Lake Water Monitoring and Testing


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Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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