Be prepared to weather more weather extremes in the Okanagan

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Get ready for more weather extremes in the Okanagan
Get ready for more weather extremes in the Okanagan – Sep 8, 2017

From near record amounts of precipitation in the spring, and the flooding that followed, to a summer of record setting heat and drought.

2017 has been a year of weather extremes in the Okanagan. And with climate change, those polar opposites are likely to become more frequent and intense.

“That’s what I’ve seen more this year than anything, extremes,” Shaun Reimer, who manages water flows at the Okanagan lake dam for the provincial government, said.

This spring, those extremes have made the job especially challenging.

“What we’re seeing now, as things warm up a little bit, is snowfall mixed with rainfall events,” Reimer said. “And it’s bumping up the stream flow levels and it had a lot to do with what happened this year. The water always ends up in the lake.”

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Reimer was a speaker Friday at the annual general meeting of the Okanagan Basin Water Board where one of the messages on water conservation is taking on ever greater importance.

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“That is the case,” Lake Country mayor Jim Baker, who attended the meeting, said. “And certainly, industry is looking at all sorts of drip irrigation and using computers to indicate where you have to get the water at certain times.”

The director of the Pembina Institute’s B.C. climate policy program, Maximillian Kniewasser, was also a presenter at the AGM. The institute promotes transitioning to clean energy sources to reduce greenhouse gas global warming.

“For the first time really, there’s a level of excitement that we can act on this issue and we can benefit economically and keep the high standards of living,” Kniewasser said. “We don’t have to change the way we live.”

The provincial government has declared a level three drought in the Okanagan. People are urged to voluntarily reduce their water use by 30 per cent.

“It’s not that climate change is coming. We are in the midst of it,” says Reimer.

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