The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) has approved more than $318,000 in funding to 17 projects that will help conserve and protect water in the valley.
Directors approved the Water Conservation and Quality Improvement (WCQI) grants at their last board meeting, April 2. Recipients have now been notified. In all, there were 31 applications with a total ask of $688,281.
The projects tackle Okanagan water issues from several different angles, working with residents, businesses, and local governments. In addition, the projects include collaboration, leveraging OBWB funding and extending on-the-ground efforts.
“Climate change is a reality in our valley,” said Sue McKortoff, chair of OBWB. “We have seen extreme flooding, drought, and fires, sometimes all in the same year. We can’t work in silos. We need to work together, sharing ideas and resources. This program does that.”
Although the WCQI annual budget is $300,000, additional funds were made available from other previous projects that came in under-budget, allowing OBWB to award additional dollars. Projects had to show valley-wide benefits and additional consideration was given to those that addressed the board’s annual theme of climate change.
Funding was provided to:
- The Okanagan and Similkameen Stewardship Society, which will work with residents to improve riparian areas on their property. The society will work with residents to improve these spaces to act as carbon sinks but also improve water quality before it reaches valley creeks, rivers, and lakes.
- Several water improvement projects, including a floodplain re-engagement project on the Okanagan River Channel by the Okanagan Indian Education Resources Society (OIERS)-En’owkin Centre. This project will improve rearing habitat for Indigenous fish species while supporting recovery of at-risk species that require healthy waterways. Re-naturalizing the area with native plants will also enhance carbon sequestration and flood mitigation.
- Three Okanagan regional districts, which will develop a Climate Projections Report for local governments, non-profits, and interested citizens. These reports will provide stakeholders the foundation to develop plans and actions that aim to reduce risks associated with climate variability and changes in water quality and quantity.
- The O’Keefe Ranch to move some animal pens, which will help improve water quality before it enters Okanagan Lake, an important source of drinking water for valley residents.
- The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association to engage tourism operators on eco-efficiency, including improving energy and water efficiency.
- The Regional District of North Okanagan, which will work with landscape contractors to promote proper WaterWise plant selection and irrigation methods.
“Despite the fact that we see water in our lakes and streams, we have less water available in the Okanagan per person than elsewhere in Canada,” McKortoff said. “As our population continues to grow, as water availability becomes less certain, and as fires and extreme rain events impact our water quality, things need to change. We can’t keep on the same path. These projects help build a more resilient Okanagan, and offer the opportunity to engage all of us in that effort.”