In Kelowna, at the base of Knox Mountain, and extending across a marshland to Okanagan Lake is the Tolko sawmill site, some forty acres of land. The city of Kelowna is opening discussions on what should be done with this site. And the owners of the property also have their own opinions on the future usage, as is their right.
But I believe all the rest of the Okanagan has the right to a say. Future development in Kelowna impacts every Okanagan Valley resident. There is only so much water available for us all, and, if you believe certain scientists, that amount of water is going to decrease exponentially over the next decades.
If Kelowna develops forty acres more of high rise condo buildings, in this one area, plus the developments going on in the down town, and the lands south of Highway 97, then the water supply is going to be seriously taxed.
And that is our water supply.
Yes, there are a few creeks that feed the Okanagan Lake and river system. But, basically, the lake itself is our reservoir. This year it is forty centimetres lower than it should be. There has just not been enough inflow. The snow melt was too quick and there has been no rainfall to support the water system.
The potential water usage of Kelowna’s proposed growth is going to seriously impact the south Okanagan. At some point, I predict that our farmers will be asked (no, ordered) to stop irrigating their crops. As in California, there will be fruit trees dying of drought, field crops either not even planted or left to dry out before achieving production, and even our highly touted grape production will suffer. Without vineyards, there are no wineries, and without wineries, the tourist value of the south Okanagan will plummet
So, where is the Okanagan Basin Water Board? They have power, authority, and the mandate to manage and equally distribute water throughout the Okanagan. I have not heard a peep from them in years.
But more than a peep will be heard when the Okanagan water system is so depleted that water for the condo dwellers in Kelowna is given precedence to the irrigation needs of our farmers. People, needing water in their households, will always supersede the lowly farmer, watering trees or vines. You know who will win. Every time.
But Kelowna keeps growing. We have to tell it to stop. And we have to man the Okanagan Basin Water Board with members strong enough to do that.
What do you think?
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