Episode 7

How BC Drought Managers Make Tough Water Allocation Decisions

This episode returns to the subject of drought and how the government manages water scarcity. This time: an interview with Nicole Pyett, a hydrogeologist and Water Resources Section Head, Authorizations for the Thompson Okanagan region with BC's Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship. Scroll down to find a bunch of resources NIcole mentions in our conversation.

I asked Nicole to join me to talk about some of the science and date behind how she and her colleagues make decisions about how to allocate water during drought.

Last year, water levels in the Salmon River and some of its tributaries dropped so low that officials from BC's Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship were required by law to take actions to protect spawning fish populations there. What began as a request for voluntary irrigation reductions quickly escalated to outright irrigation curtailment orders for some of the area's forage producers. These farmers were, and are, frustrated by what happened. They've argued that the connection between the deep aquifers they tap and surface water levels is very weak, or non-existent. In other words, if you force them to stop irrigating it's not going help the fish. 

Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship hydrogeologists disagree. And at a community meeting they hosted in Westwold on February 27th, they told the farmers in attendance that they had the data on hand to demonstrate the curtailments improved the situation for spawning fish. Only they never got to share their data, because the conversation in the room kept going in various directions. That's why I invited NIcole to talk to me: so that I could ask her to explain the connection between surface water and ground water. 

After our conversation, Nicole sent me a very helpful summary of some of the resources she talked about. Here it is:

Water Science Series reports released by the Province of British Columbia

 Determining the Likelihood of Hydraulic Connection - Guidance for Determining the Effect of Diversion of Groundwater on Specific Streams

 Screening Tool for Guiding Short-Term Groundwater Curtailment during Water Scarcity

 United States Geological Survey (USGS) report

Streamflow Depletion by Wells - Understanding and Managing the Effects of Groundwater Pumping on Streamflow

 Links to numerous other materials and documents including the British Columbia Drought and Water Scarcity Response Plan are available through the Provincial drought webpage.


Questions and comments regarding water management in the Thompson Okanagan Region can be sent to local staff through WaterResources@gov.bc.ca.

Got something to tell me? Are you a farmer or non-profit that wants to post something on the community bulliten board? Send a voice memo (preferred!) or written words to Jordan:

250 767 6636


About the Podcast

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Farming in British Columbia

About your host

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Jordan Marr

I'm Jordan Marr, a farmer and broadcaster in BC's North Okanagan. My farm business is called Unearthed Organics, where I produce milling corn and dry beans on a small-scale. I currently produce and host this podcast as well as The Organic BC Podcast & The Ruminant Podcast. I also produce a regular segment on food and farming in the southern interior for CBC Radio's Daybreak South, based in Kelowna. I live with my wife and two kids in Vernon.