With development increasing in the Okanagan, pressure on local streams, watercourses, wetlands and Okanagan Lake is increasing.
Okanagan Lake is the main feature in the Central Okanagan that provides a unique and beautiful landscape as well as the basic sustenance needed for a vibrant community and economy. Riparian and wetland areas are valuable aquatic resources in the Okanagan. Riparian areas link water to land. They border streams, lakes, and wetlands. The blend of streambed, water, trees, shrubs, and grasses in a riparian area provides fish habitat, and directly influences it. Wetlands include ponds, marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens. These ecosystems provide benefits like clean drinking water, flood and drought relief, recreational opportunities, as well as habitat for wildlife. Wetlands are very rare in the Okanagan and many have been lost due to land use practices.
Water is a collective resource that is shared by people and the environment and supports the economy. It is important that we continue to effectively manage water resources to ensure the Region and the Okanagan Valley can accommodate the needs for all users, including plants and animals in the environment, now and in the future.
Protection of Aquatic Resources
The Local Government Act permits the Regional District to protect watercourses by identifying them in an Official Community Plan and implementing their protection through Development Permit Area provisions. Current practice in the RDCO is to work closely with federal and provincial agencies and the development industry to ensure that on-site consideration is given to watercourses and sensitive areas.
Provincial Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR), directs local government to protect riparian areas from development. The RAR calls on local governments to protect riparian areas during development by ensuring that a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) conducts a science-based assessment of proposed development activities.
Aquatic ecosystems in the Okanagan continue to be threatened by development. The Okanagan Wetlands Strategy was launched by various project partners throughout region and is a three-phase effort to re-establish wetland ecosystems.
Through the Okanagan Wetlands Strategy project, a guidebook was developed for local governments on the use of constructed wetlands for stormwater management in the Okanagan Basin. The use of constructed wetlands in stormwater management could help to maintain water quality and contribute to the multiple-barrier approach to the protection of the Okanagan’s water sources. This resource provides information to support local governments in designing and implementing constructed wetlands for stormwater retention and water quality improvement through treatment.
Wetland Inventory and Mapping (WIM) is a key facet of wetland protection and conservation efforts. It has been completed on all wetlands within the region and has informed much of the work completed as part of the Okanagan Wetlands Strategy. Click here to learn more about this project.
Protecting water quality is important to residents of the Okanagan and is of growing concern worldwide. The water we use every day is subject to pollutants and can easily become contaminated. Drinking water sources such groundwater and aquifers are especially vulnerable when they occur in areas of development.