It’s always early when I drop my hubby off at the airport in Kelowna, so I took my usual time getting home so that I could spend time poking around new places and enjoy the Okanagan Valley.
The air was already warm enough for a swim after having my breakfast in Winfield, so I stopped at the empty beach in Oyama and had a dip in the glassy-calm lake. But I wasn’t there alone. A man in a small boat and an osprey were fishing nearby, ducks were cruising the shorelines, swallows were making quick dives to scoop up a little water to drink and dragonflies were darting about all around me.
After treating myself to some fresh cherries at Gatzke’s Farmers Market, I continued along lovely Kalamalka Lake (which means ‘lake of many colours’) and decided to snoop out the Sparkling Hill Resort that our friends keep talking about and where Sir Anthony Hopkins stayed while he was making his movie in Enderby. That windy road offered the singing of meadowlarks and scenes of green pastures full of grazing cattle and horses, with a deer in the distance, the occasional farm house, small ponds full of bull rushes and buzzing insects and a large water reclamation pond for the now very large Predator Ridge Golf Course development that I had to drive through to get there. After that was another quick stop to see the Allan Brooks Nature Centre where gopher, snake and marmot signs were posted along the gravel road, a rest at the river in Enderby and another splash in Mara Lake to cool off again in the afternoon heat.
Water is everywhere in the Okanagan and Shuswap valleys, but it should never be taken for granted that these lakes and rivers will always be clean and full today and into the future.
El Nino and La Nina are both terms referring to large-scale changes in sea-surface temperatures across the central and eastern tropical Pacific and created by very complex dynamics that are still not fully understood today.
An El Nino event happens when the tropical trade winds die out and ocean temperatures become unusually warm and unstable. On the flip side is La Nina, which occurs when the winds blow unusually hard and the sea temperature becomes colder than normal. They usually last around nine to 12 months, occur every two to seven years and have been happening for at least 125,000 years.
These events can have major impacts on global weather patterns and marine ecosystems, as well as creating many natural disasters – so they can be pretty tough on the planet, critters and people. This year is an El Nino year, and it’s possible that it could be the worst one on record, going right into 2016. This means we’re not only in for a hotter and drier summer – particularly in the Prairies – but also an extreme forest fire season and possible crop losses. This will also make it even worse for California.
Water scarcity has already hit many places in all three western provinces due to low snow packs and little rainfall, but this is only just the beginning of it. The low water levels in our lakes, rivers and underground aquifers will not only affect people, but also all the other micro and macro life forms that depend on it just as much as we do.
We will all need to do our best to conserve and properly utilize the water, so we farmers, gardeners and homeowners can do our part by using mulches, watering with the proper amounts and at the right times, making sure our sprinklers are hitting the lawn and not the road and even changing our plants to suit a now-dryer climate. Also keep in mind the fertilizers and ‘cides’ we use end up as ‘nutrients’ in our groundwater and lakes, creating pollution problems and bad algae blooms.
As I took in the expansive views of the Okanagan Lake from the deck of that fancy resort, I saw new housing developments being carved out of the mountains in all directions, further increasing the demands on the water supply.
It really struck me then that this precious resource is not only vital for survival to us and so many other life forms in this beautiful pocket of British Columbia – but how much quality it adds to our life with all the wonderful food, flowers and beverages we can produce here, the way we can play, the livelihoods it supports and the breathtaking views it offers.
Water – waste not, want not as they say. We need to respect it and protect it to not only continue enjoying this amazing lifestyle we have here, but because so many creatures depend on it just to live.