Episode 4

Water Scarcity in Westwold and Around the Province

This episode I speak with Tom Walker of Country Life Magazine and BC Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Nathan Cullen.

Much of BC has experienced various stages of drought in the last few years, with each successive year of drought compounding the issue of water scarcity in numerous parts of the province. In some areas, water scarcity in 2023 led to tensions among different water users. One example is Westwold, a small town in the Thompson Okanagan region dominated by large ranches and forage operations. Many of those operations source their irrigation water from deep aquifers in the Salmon River watershed. Last summer, water levels in the Salmon River got so low that the ability of salmon to spawn became a concern. Because of this concern, farmers in the region were abruptly told by BC government officials to curtail their irrigation, at a really crucial time of the production season. This created a lot of anger in the community. Some farmers demanded to see the science that proves that drawing water from 200 feet underground meaningfully affects water levels in the river, because they don't believe there's a connection.

Things will probably get worse. We're headed into the 2024 farming season with a pretty low snowpack in many parts of BC, and meanwhile, mid-march brought warm weather that shattered a lot of temperature records. So I invited Tom Walker to talk to me, since in his gig as a writer for Country Life Magazine, he's been covering the issue of water scarcity for a few years now. I also reached out to the BC Ministries of Agriculture and also Water, Land and Resource Stewardship for comment. Specifically, I asked if I could speak to a hydrologist who could explain the relationship between drawing irrigation water from deep wells in Westwold, and water levels in the salmon river. They told me, maybe, and so far, no dice, but they did allow me to interview Minister Cullen for 10 minutes. You'll hear from him after my conversation with Tom Walker.

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.