Advertisement

Fruit growers fuming after Summerland shuts off irrigation amid historic heat wave

Click to play video: 'Heat wave putting Okanagan fruit crops at risk' Heat wave putting Okanagan fruit crops at risk
WATCH: The current heat wave is creating a high stakes situation for Okanagan fruit crops. Heat and sunlight can lead to sweeter fruit, but too much causes damage. – Jun 28, 2021

Orchardists in Summerland, B.C., are upset that the municipal water utility quietly shut off irrigation lines early Monday amid B.C.’s unprecedented and historic heat wave.

Joel Carter of Laughing Coyote Orchards Ltd., which grows apples and cherries, said a family member discovered two “blue boxes” were shut off overnight, cutting off a crucial water supply to his crops at peak season just before harvest.

“They just shut our water off on the hottest day in a thousand years,” he told Global News.

Read more: Lytton, B.C. sets all-time temperature record for Canada amid blistering heat wave

‘If I didn’t catch it within six hours, it probably would have cost me a few thousand dollars minimum,” Carter said.

“It is definitely going to stress the trees a lot. That would have been really nice to have a nice saturated soil profile for those trees so they could be drawing water in that heat.”

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: '‘I was horrified’: Drivers report crated dog strapped to RV on highway during B.C. heat wave' ‘I was horrified’: Drivers report crated dog strapped to RV on highway during B.C. heat wave
‘I was horrified’: Drivers report crated dog strapped to RV on highway during B.C. heat wave – Jun 28, 2021

Carter said the biggest frustration was the lack of communication from the District of Summerland.

“They need to communicate, they need to call people,” he said.

Apple and cherry farmer Joel Carter is upset with the District of Summerland for temporarily shutting off his irrigation during B.C.’s heat wave. Submitted

Kris Johnson, director of works and infrastructure with the District of Summerland, said an urgent situation suddenly emerged Sunday night at the water treatment plant.

Story continues below advertisement

“We made the decision to shut off 10-15 of the high water users within the district in order to immediately reduce the demand on the water treatment plant in order for us to deal with some issues we were having with two water pumps,” Johnson told Global News.

Read more: Heat wave smashes high-temperature records in Okanagan

“If we wouldn’t have immediately took measures to reduce the flows, the water treatment plant treated-water storage would have been drained completely. The district would have either been out of water or we would have had to open our supplemental line, which contributes untreated but chlorinated water into the system to ensure residents still have water, but it would have required us to go on a boil-water notice.”

Click to play video: 'Heat wave smashes records in the Okanagan' Heat wave smashes records in the Okanagan
Heat wave smashes records in the Okanagan – Jun 27, 2021

Carter said the district should have prioritized annual crops that aren’t as sensitive to a temporary period without water.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: Western Canada’s extreme heat wave: Some experts have ‘never seen’ anything like it

“If you kill an apple tree, I’m out 15 years of production, I’ve spent $25,000 an acre planting that. If you kill my trees, not only have I wasted years and years to grow them back, but all that money I’ve sunk into them as well,” he said.

“There are some things we can do to cut back, but apples and cherries — this is the time of year where it’s most important to be hitting them with water because we are getting close to harvest.”

Read more: Heat wave smashes records in the Okanagan

Johnson said the agricultural irrigation lines were switched back on between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., Monday morning.

On Monday, the district announced it was entering Stage 2 water restrictions due to the extreme heat and the demands on the Summerland water treatment plant.

Even addresses can only water between the times of midnight – 6 a.m. on Sunday and Thursday. Odd addresses can only water between the times of midnight – 6 a.m. on Saturday and Tuesday.

Click to play video: 'Water conservation: Okanagan residents challenged to ‘make water work’' Water conservation: Okanagan residents challenged to ‘make water work’
Water conservation: Okanagan residents challenged to ‘make water work’ – Jun 23, 2021

“Any agricultural irrigator is asked to do what they can to reduce their consumption by 30 per cent,” Johnson said of the voluntary request.

Story continues below advertisement

“If water consumption is not reduced immediately, the Summerland Water System will be on a Districtwide Boil Water Notice,” the public notice states.

“To avoid Water Treatment Plant shutdown, the District may have to reduce demand by temporarily shutting off some irrigation services.”

Read more: More than 25 people have died in 24 hours in Burnaby, many due to heat, police say

Learn more about Summerland’s water restrictions on the district’s website.

Summerland is a municipality in the Okanagan currently under Environment Canada’s heat warning due to historically hot temperatures surpassing 40 degrees Celsius in some areas.

Sponsored content