Kelowna, B.C. – Syilx Territory – 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 prevention, management, and/or mitigation of drought or water shortages in the 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,” says Carolina Restrepo-Tamayo, OBWB’s Office and Grants Manager. About 90% of the applications were related to this year’s drought theme, she added. “That says to us that local government, non-profits and others, see the need to be proactive in addressing this issue.”

Indeed, 10 of the 14 funded projects are directly related to drought.

Successful applicants include 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. The 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 became a reality.

Another proposal funded, in part, for its potential to be a model for similar projects in the valley was 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 an issue, 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.

Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) was funded for its “Groundwater – stream exchange on alluvial fans of the Okanagan.” The project addresses a significant gap in understanding flows from groundwater into Okanagan Lake. As noted by 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 and additional support from others, this year’s 14 projects have combined budgets of over $2.1 million going toward water improvements in the Okanagan.

Since the WCQI program began in 2006, and with this latest award of grants, the Water Board has funded 345 projects worth more than $6.17 mill.


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