The South Okanagan may be one of the most arid areas in B.C., but that just makes being aware of water issues all the more important.
That’s one of the reasons water was chosen as the topic for this year’s Meadowlark Festival, said Sally Kilburg, chair of the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance, the festival sponsors.
“Not only are we in an arid area, we also have a large agricultural component that uses a lot of water,” said Kilburg, adding that residential development of the valley is also putting a stress on the water supply.
Kilburg said the festival is looking at water from the point of view of conversation and protection, noting that the spring runoff supplies much of the water used in the valley.
“If we use more than that, then we use the lake,” she said. “The lake really only holds about 50 or 60 years of our annual use and it would be gone.”
While most of the tours, which include events like birding and biking tours with biologist Dick Canning, are modifying their program to include water, there are some that focus entirely on the festival theme, like a visit from the Vancouver Aquarium’s Aqua Van.
The van will be at the Penticton Visitors Centre on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and it’s free for children and families to enjoy the interactive displays featuring B.C. marine animals. Also, a 200-litre mobile touch table will let children get up close with cold-water marine invertebrates and fish.
Also at the visitor’s centre, Kilburg said the OSCA will be setting up a tent from Thursday to Sunday, where people will be able to purchase tickets for various Meadowlark tours.
Of the 90 events on the schedule for this year’s festival, Kilburg said 20 are sold out completely. Some of the remaining ones only have a few tickets left, but there is space in others, especially for the bigger events like the Thursday evening keynote address from internationally recognized water expert and activist Maude Barlow.
“A lot of festivals will have just a few events that many people come to. We have many events that a few people come to,” said Kilburg. “We try to maximize the experience in nature for the people that participate, but we also want to minimize the impact they have on the environment. So we tend to have events that only fit between 15 and 20 people.”
Some events, like Barlow’s talk and the Monday morning Breakfast on the Lake, do have more seats available.
That one features author Allan Casey, who will be doing readings from his book Lakeland as the Casabella Princess does a breakfast cruise.
“In order to write his book, he did a lot of research on Okanagan Lake and the water systems here,” said Kilburg. “It’s kind of a nice easy way to say goodbye to the Meadowlark Festival.
For more information on the festival, visit the website www.meadowlarkfestival.bc.ca.