To stem the strain on Penticton’s reservoir, water restrictions were implemented by the city on July 17 – but the pinch won’t be felt by farmers.
“Growers are already very efficient water users,” said Glen Lucas, general manager of the BC Fruit Growers Association. “We use some of the best technology in the world for irrigation and there have been significant improvements over the years.”
Light snowpacks and an early spring contributed to the need to conserve this summer, Lucas said, but he expects the existing reserves to sustain the community’s water needs for the remainder of the year.
While the community is prepared for the dry season, this year’s conditions are exhausting the rations, which makes the South Okanagan susceptible to harsher effects next summer.
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen are asking residents to reduce water consumption by 30 per cent. Fishing in all streams and rivers has also been suspended.
The area restrictions came in response to the Level 3 drought rating by the B.C. government, to which the city asked residents to cut back on water usage by 30 per cent.
“This is critical to avoid further water restrictions,” reads a city press release. “Although reservoirs are lower than they should be, the City of Penticton is seeing water use that is higher than normal.”
The severity of the drought “is significant as it could have potentially serious ecosystem or socioeconomic impacts.”
And in addition to having a less bountiful supply, consumption of water has increased.
“Storage volumes in the Penticton Creek and Ellis Creek dam systems are being constantly monitored and adjusted to maintain maximum storage volumes. The water treatment plant is adjusting to use lake water to maximize reservoirs, and park irrigation will be reduced by 30 per cent effective (July 17),” states a city press release.
Lucas said the Fruit Growers Association expects irrigation technology will continue to evolve over the coming years, “but at this time growers are efficient users of water with the current technology, and any reduction in water would impact their crops.”
Growers in the Okanagan haven’t had to resort to drastic measures, but where drought has harsher impacts, farmers have eliminated their crops early in the year in hopes of rationing enough water to save the tree for the next growing season.
“The first priority is harvesting crops, second is saving the trees if the crops can’t be.”
He says the association is hopeful that the reserve will be replenished by favourable conditions over the next year.
The city is encouraging residents to start conversations over social media about practical ways of cutting down on water use. The city posts regularly about this issue, and users who engage with their Facebook and Twitter posts will be entered into a draw for a family pass at the Penticton Community Centre.
For contest details, go to www.penticton.ca, drop down the departments tab, to the water treatment link which leads to the conservation page.