Dr. Anna Warwick Sears of the Okanagan Basin Water Board advises Upper Columbia residents to tackle water challenges before they become serious issues.

Water expert weighs in on local water debate

The Lake Windermere Ambassadors recently hosted an event to tap into local knowledge and build greater awareness of watershed issues.

The Lake Windermere Ambassadors (LWA) recently hosted an event designed to tap into local knowledge and build greater awareness of watershed issues. Dr. Anna Warwick Sears, executive director of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, was the keynote speaker and spoke with an audience of about thirty people on December 10th at CopperPoint Resort.

Sears advised residents in the Upper Columbia watershed to anticipate future water challenges before they become serious problems.  Conversing with each other about water is the first step in this process.

“Having a good future means acting today,” said Sears. “When is the best time to plant a tree?  Thirty years ago; the second best time is today.”

“Right now we have the problem of the ‘incredible shrinking government’,” cautioned    Sears. “With all the cuts to the budget and reorganization of Ministries and responsibilities, we lost the people who used to monitor water quality and quantity.”

She told the audience not to expect provincial government to step up to sort out water issues in this region. Her advice for the residents of the Upper Columbia was to identify shared values and concerns, then plan together for the future.

“You’ll either have to pay a little now or a lot later,” she said. “It will be cheaper to address things now than to wait until things are really a problem and really expensive.”

Sears also suggested that people should not expect the valley to stay in its present state, but that it will be influenced by things like climate change and population growth.

“We live in one of the best parts of the world.  People will want to move here because they live in places that are getting less and less nice.”

Participants expressed an appreciation for water-based recreation in this region and the tourism in the area because of the lake. Their concerns related to uncertainty about future water quality, water quantity, lake levels, and how water management will affect the wetlands and the wildlife that depend on them. Participants also expressed a love of fishing, and a concern about the loss of native fish and the introduction of invasive species.

The LWA plan on hosting more community conversations about water in the coming year.

“This is the first of several open conversations we would like to host to discuss our lake and watershed, how we interact with them, what’s being done to protect them… and what can be done,” said LWA chair Paul Christy.