Okanagan Basin Water Board aims to increase hydrometric information network across the valley

Measuring, conserving

The Okanagan Basin Water Board plans to initiate a water monitoring program.

The hydrometric information network would monitor water use and aid in local and senior government decision-making, “especially with climate change affecting water availability,” the board says.

In its latest report, the board says there a long-recognized deficit of hydrometric monitoring stations in the valley, in which stations, previously operated by various levels of government, had dropped from 156 in the 1980s to 25 by 2007.

“Although water availability has long been a problem in the Okanagan and supply problems are predicted to worsen, the basic network of hydrometric stations has been declining for several years. Only 15 of the 79 drainages in the Okanagan Basin are now being monitored by the Water Survey of Canada. Reliable data are needed for water management planning by local governments, water purveyors, and the agricultural community. These data are used for land-use and transportation planning; flood forecasting; drought management planning; protecting in-stream flows for fish; and tracking changes in streamflow, water temperature and other indicators in relation to population growth and climate change.”

The goal of the program is to increase the number of stations, and improve data access from existing stations, in partnership with Okanagan Nation Alliance, senior governments and Okanagan water suppliers.

One related effort is the Okanagan Environmental Flow Needs Project, which is collecting field data on fish habitat characteristics in streams over a range of flows; and will set critical flows for each species in selected tributaries.

More information on this is available in the board’s annual report… Water Connects Us.

The report includes an overview of the main initiatives undertaken during the past year as part of the OBWB’s three main programs: water management, milfoil control, and sewerage facilities grants.

The OBWB awarded more than $1.27 million in infrastructure grants to improve wastewater treatment, and $318,846 in water conservation and quality improvement grants to local governments and community groups.

During the year, it also partnered with the UBC Okanagan Engineering Department to undertake a benchmarking project for Okanagan municipal water systems. With an annual contribution of $5,000, the board helped the university secure matching funds of $76,800 a year for four years.

This year is the water board’s 50th anniversary, and plans are underway to hold a public event online later this fall.