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Cover Stor
nothing without it
ater: W
It’s becoming more
important for the
agriculture community
to become directly
involved in governance
of the Okanagan region’s
most precious natural
By Judie Steeves
ithout irrigation the
Okanagan and
brown valleys instead of green ones.
Similkameen would be
lifeblood of agriculture—and the
In such arid climates water is the
remainder of the human population.
sustainable source of water there
Without a reasonably-priced,
wouldn’t be orchards and vineyards
mantling the benches and hillsides of
these valleys, providing the scenic
setting and the economic essentials for
valley life.
the tap into drinking glasses and onto
It’s vital that it continue to flow from
vegetable plots, but it’s also vital that it continue to support the
Agricultural Land Reserve, because farmland without water is
like a fish out of water: it won’t survive for very long.
Okanagan Valley’s hillsides were dotted with sagebrush,
Before the hand of the white man changed it all, the
mariposa lilies and grasses that briefly showed green in spring,
Okanagan Valley is a finite source of water. With a residence
And that ribbon of blue that snakes its way down the but were brown for the rest of the year.
time of 60 years or so, Okanagan Lake could easily be drawn
down like Lake Mead in Nevada, which is forecast to go dry
settlers built rock-filled log crib dams on upland streams,
That regime of water won’t support fruit trees, so early
during the next decade.
constructed miles of wooden flumes to carry down the water
stored there from melting snow and dug ditches throughout
spring melt of winter’s accumulation of snow at higher
So, water has to be stored in upland reservoirs during the their farms to deliver the precious drops of water to thirsty
elevations, where the amount of precipitation is greater than
in the dry valley bottom. evolved only slightly from the cooperatives formed by those
In many parts of the valley, today’s water utilities have
right through the heat of summer, but at a rate that will still
Then, it has to be released slowly enough to make it last early farmers at the beginning of the last century to turn their
brown farms green with precious water.
provide enough to keep orchards and vineyards green. But, today those irrigation districts also serve thousands
British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2009
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