A panoramic view of the Okanagan Valley with West Kelowna in the foreground and mountains in the background
  • Article

Okanagan lakes, waterways, and landscapes are a point of pride for residents and a draw for visitors, most communities are built and come together around our waterways. We need to make sure that these cherished waters and natural systems - that we rely on for drinking water, supporting recreation, and fuelling our economy - are in optimal health. With this in mind, OCCP in partnership with local governments undertook a research study of Kalamalka and Wood Lake, to understand the impact power boating is having on our lakes to ensure we keep our freshwater environments healthy and clean.

Over the summer of 2016, teams from Ecoscape Environmental Consultants Ltd. and Larratt Aquatic Consulting Ltd. conducted the research study. They found power boating activities close to drinking water intakes can negatively impact drinking water quality, due to boat propeller turbulence disturbing the lakebed, which causes sediment to enter our drinking water intakes. Lakebed sediment can contain harmful bacteria and chemicals which can contaminate drinking water.

Info card about the negative impact of boat propeller turbulence on lakebeds.

To protect our drinking water, the study recommends:

  • Reducing wakes through low wake zones along the shoreline and around drinking water intakes
  • Enjoying higher speed and wake-based activities in the middle of the lakes

The study also found noise and waves created by power boats along the shoreline are having a negative impact on the many at-risk animals who call the shoreline home. It recommends designating shallow sensitive areas as low wake zones and limiting the power boating activity along the shoreline where waves have the most destructive impact on important habitat.

Other important recommendations from the study included improving safeguards against spills of hazardous materials into the lake such as gas, oil, harmful solvents, and sewage. As well as ensuring all fuelling stations on the lakes have spill response plans detailing how to manage spills and a spill kit to clean-up spills. Ensuring the protection of our drinking water and the environment.

Given the importance of fresh water to our health, our livelihoods, and natural systems, communities should have a say in the decisions that affect our home waters. OCCP reached out to the public with the study recommendations to gauge public interest and support for protecting our waters. During the series of public engagement activities, at local grocery stores and public events, we heard overwhelmingly the public supported the recommendations; which were often referred to as "common sense" regulations to protect our lakes.

Next steps for the project include:

  1. OCCP will provide a summary report of public engagement input to local governments and conservation partners.
  2. OCCP will develop an implementation strategy, for local governments, outlining how to introduce the study recommendations over the long term. Development of the strategy will take into consideration findings from the boat impact study, public input, as well as lake management best practices from across North America.

From picnics to paddling, we often head to the calm of local lakes and rivers when we want to recreate and relax. These places of refuge make the Okanagan a special place to live and to ensure it will stay this way into the future, we need strong water regulations to protect our freshwater playgrounds.

To review the complete study, download a copy here.

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