By Cheryl Miller
The perception that the Okanagan is blessed with an abundance of fresh water has led many to think that we have an endless supply and we don’t have to worry about conserving, says Corinne Jackson, communications and research coordinator with the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OKBW).
But with population growth and climate change, altering behavior is a must.
“Our research has found that in the Okanagan basin, outdoor irrigation accounts for almost 25 per cent of our water use. And the only reason we have green lawns is because of how much water we use. It’s not natural to the area. The only desert in all of Canada is in our watershed,” Corinne explains.
About 18 months ago, the OKWB launched Okanagan WaterWise, an education and public outreach program to increase awareness among valley residents about water issues in the Okanagan and to bring residents of the Okanagan valley together with the understanding that our water source is connected — we all share the same resource.
According to the Vital Signs report, community members believe in the importance of conserving our water, as well as improving curbside recycling and implementing curbside compost pickup.
Peter Rotheisler, with the Regional District of Central Okanagan’s waste reduction office, says the residential recycling program has been operating in the Central Okanagan since July 2000 and each year the program has seen higher volumes of materials collected.
In 2011, 50 per cent of all curbside waste (including recycling and yard waste) collected in the Central Okanagan was diverted from the landfill. However, the most recent survey done by the Regional District of Central Okanagan found 37 per cent of the residential garbage currently sent to the landfill is recyclable.
So what’s next? The waste reduction office recently initiated a study looking at how Okanagan residents manage kitchen waste. Rotheisler says other municipalities, including Vancouver, have started pilot programs to deal with kitchen waste and, depending on the results of the study, it’s something that could be considered in two to three years.
Cheryl Miller is Grants Manager with Central Okanagan Foundation