Too early to tell if flood or drought year ahead for Okanagan

Not even the Okanagan Basin Water Board staff know if it’ll be a flood or drought year

Will it be a flood or drought year nobody knows – not even the executive director of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

Anna Warwick-Sears, executive director of the water board told Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen directors Thursday it was “premature to speculate” whether the Okanagan and Similkameen were looking at a serious flooding year or if the region will experience serious drought conditions.

She told directors the current data shows the area is around 80 per cent of regular snowpack, but a new report from the province is expected in the next few days.

Related: Lowered flood risk with reduced snowpack around the Okanagan

“We were at about this level of snowpack in 2017 and that was one of the worst flood years on record and that was because of an extremely wet spring, so it was a rain-driven flood,” she said. “I think it’s a little bit premature to speculate whether it’s going to be a flood or drought, however the longterm forecast are for continued dry weather.”

She added though that the U.S. is predicting a serious drought.

“On the phone call we were on with the Osoyoos Lake Board of Control this week, the folks from the Washington State side of the lake are very concerned about drought because the Similkameen (River) is very dry right now. The Similkameen is drier that the Okanagan Valley right now. They rely on the Similkameen water as it crosses the border for their irrigation, so it was their biggest concern. The Americans are convinced they are going to be in drought. I think that we are just in a wait and see mode, but I think everyone is preparing.”

Warwick-Sears said communication staff at the OBWB is working on preparing drought plans as a just in case measure.

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