An­nual meet­ing looks at ex­treme weather and so­lu­tions

The Daily Courier - - WESTSIDE WEEKLY -

The Okana­gan Basin Wa­ter Board held its an­nual meet­ing last week at West­bank Li­ons Com­mu­nity Cen­tre in West Kelowna.

The meet­ing’s theme was Weath­er­ing Ex­tremes, rec­og­niz­ing that the cli­mate in the Okana­gan Val­ley is chang­ing and the need to act on – to adapt to, but also to mit­i­gate – cli­mate change.

Of course, the Okana­gan has seen ood­ing and droughts in the past, but, as cli­mate mod­els show us, these ex­treme events will be­come more com­mon and more in­tense.

This spring, we saw his­toric ood­ing, fol­lowed by a pro­longed pe­riod of heat and dry weather, break­ing tem­per­a­ture and low­est pre­cip­i­ta­tion records in our val­ley.

As part of its an­nual meet­ing this year, the OBWB show­cased some of the projects it is un­der­tak­ing to ad­dress these two ex­tremes, and spoke to the need to do more, in part­ner­ship with lo­cal govern­ments, se­nior lev­els of gov­ern­ment, non-pro ts and in­di­vid­u­als.

“In many ways, adap­ta­tion has been a core of our work,” ex­plained Wa­ter Board ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Anna War­wick Sears.

“Things that we do to pre­pare for cli­mate ex­tremes are also best prac­tices to make our com­mu­ni­ties stronger. Drought plan­ning, restor­ing wet­lands to hold ood waters, and pro­mot­ing land­scapes that re­quire less wa­ter dur­ing hot, dry sum­mers – are all forms of adap­ta­tion. But we also need to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions to pre­vent an es­ca­la­tion of ex­treme events that will make wa­ter sus­tain­abil­ity far more dif cult.

“You look at Hur­ri­cane Har­vey in Texas. There was four feet of wa­ter. It was so heavy, that it caused a two cen­time­tre de­pres­sion in the earth’s crust,” noted Sears, turn­ing to the ood­ing we saw here in the Okana­gan and a pre­sen­ta­tion pro­vided by Shaun Reimer.

Reimer is Sec­tion Head for Pub­lic Safety and Pro­tec­tion with the B. C. Min­istry of Forests, Lands, Nat­u­ral Re­source Op­er­a­tions and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment and helps man­age Okana­gan Lake lev­els.

Reimer pro­vided an overview of this spring’s flood­ing at the meet­ing and ex­plained how low Okana­gan snow­packs in win­ter sug­gested a po­ten­tial drought this sum­mer. But then un­ex­pected pre­cip­i­ta­tion be­gan in March and built up the snow­pack.

Then the rains came. And soon af­ter that, warm weather which melted the snow, caused higher ows into the lake than could be re­leased with­out caus­ing se­vere flood­ing and bank ero­sion down­stream, he ex­plained.

“We broke our own records for rain­fall and have a new high wa­ter mark for the Val­ley,” said Sears. “How do you man­age around ex­treme pre­cip­i­ta­tion? There are some things you just can’t adapt to, so it’s im­por­tant we bring mit­i­ga­tion into the con­ver­sa­tion.”

To do this, the Wa­ter Board in­vited Max­i­m­il­ian Kniewasser, di­rec­tor of the Pem­bina In­sti­tute’s B.C. cli­mate pol­icy pro­gram, to speak on the state of cli­mate ac­tion in B.C. and op­por­tu­ni­ties to grow a clean economy.

“We’ve al­ready seen a one de­gree Cel­sius rise in global tem­per­a­tures and are al­ready see­ing the im­pacts with back-to-back oods and wild res that are more in­tense and ex­treme,” Kniewasser said. “There are chal­lenges but we can adapt to a one de­gree in­crease. It’s only go­ing to get worse if we get to 2 de­grees, and as a global com­mu­nity we can’t adapt be­yond 2 de­grees. So that’s where mit­i­ga­tion comes in.

“Above 2 de­grees, there will be loss of bio­di­ver­sity. Food will be scarce. Rich coun­tries will do ne, but the im­pli­ca­tions for hu­man­ity as a whole will be un­prece­dented. That’s not the type of world we want to live in. We are stand­ing at an in ec­tion point – a turn­ing point,” he added. “Five years ago, there were no good en­ergy al­ter­na­tives, but so­lar is cost-com­pet­i­tive now.

“B.C. is well-po­si­tioned to bene t from strong ac­tion on cli­mate change. The Okana­gan, be­ing at the nexus be­tween ru­ral and ur­ban, of­fers great op­por­tu­ni­ties to be a leader in clean tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tion, while also pro­vid­ing sus­tain­able re­source sec­tor jobs, for ex­am­ple in forestry and agri­cul­ture,” Kniewasser noted. “The path for­ward is doable and our prov­ince is in a good place to em­brace a clean economy and pro­duce the goods and ma­te­ri­als that will be in de­mand in the chang­ing global economy.”

In ad­di­tion to pre­sen­ta­tions by Reimer and Kniewasser, Sears pre­sented the OBWB’s an­nual re­port and spoke of the need to con­tinue to build on cli­mate adap­ta­tion ef­forts, but to reach out and work with those work­ing on mit­i­ga­tion too.

“We need to get ready for un­prece­dented weather,” she said. “We can en­sure that we’re as pro­tected as we can be, get­ting our com­mu­ni­ties more re­silient, but we should be aware and sup­port­ive of ef­forts to tackle green­house gas emis­sions.”

The an­nual meet­ing also in­cluded the an­nounce­ment that the city of Arm­strong has once again won the ti­tle of Make Wa­ter Work Com­mu­nity Cham­pi­ons. Arm­strong won the ti­tle in 2015. The Wa­ter Board an­nounces the win­ner based on the num­ber of pledges col­lected, per capita, to con­serve and Make Wa­ter Work each sum­mer. Arm­strong Mayor Chris Pieper was on hand to ac­cept the hon­our and be pre­sented with a plaque.

As the cur­rent drought con­tin­ues in the Okana­gan, the OBWB en­cour­ages res­i­dents to con­serve and save wa­ter for wa­ter mat­ters – food crops, sh and re ght­ing. Find tips to con­serve, as well as wa­ter re­stric­tions for your neigh­bour­hood at .MakeWaterWork.ca.

A copy of the 2017 an­nual re­port can be found on­line at obwb.ca/overview/an­nual-re­ports.

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