The report is in, and the Columbia Basin has had quite a year.
The annual State of the Basin Snapshot Report, compiled by the Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute, is an initiative that keeps residents up to date on the “well being” of the region. Every year it highlights trends with the economy, environment, workforce, education, culture, and much more.
“This year, the RDI has made it easier than ever for readers to dig deeper into facts that pique their interest. The report is electronically linked to Trends Analysis reports and the Digital Basin online data portal. Readers can click on any page heading or individual fact to access in-depth data and analysis on the RDI website,” said Terry MacDonald, regional innovation chair with the RDI.
Economic indicators were quite positive for the whole basin. Hotel room revenues were up (highest increase was seen in Revelstoke with 14 per cent), job growth was up (with the trade sector leading the way in the Kootenays), as were business counts, for which the Columbia Shuswap Regional District saw the highest increase of 5.2 per cent.
In fact, the Kootenays saw job growth for the third year in a row, and saw their lowest unemployment rate since the recession in 2009. Although the region also saw an 11 per cent decrease in median hourly wages.
In general, consumer confidence is up, with 34 per cent of poll respondents saying they are better off financially than they were six months ago. Even higher than that, 86 per cent of people said they are generally satisfied with their lives in the Columbia Basin.
Certain services, however, were placed on the wish list of several basin residents. Airport services, broadband internet services, and public transportation topped the list.
Another shortcoming, one particularly relevant in Golden, was the lack of child care. Eleven per cent of respondents said their child care needs were not adequately met.
Environmental statistics were not quite as positive as other areas, with water being one of the bigger areas of concern.
“Eighty-six per cent of monitored streams show a negative trend in ‘stream flow volume’ during peak flows. Ninety-seven per cent show a negative trend during late summer low flows, indicating that there is less water available for human use when demand is highest,” read the report summary.
The Kicking Horse River experienced anywhere from a zero to 27 per cent decrease (depending on the stretch of river) in volume since 1980. That is of particular concern because the average water consumption rate in the basin remains very high at 972 litres per person, per day.
All Basin-Boundary regions also recorded higher average concentrations of fine particulate matter in the air from the year before, with the highest difference occurring during the winter months.
The region also saw the biggest wildfire season in 2014 since 2007. More than 6,800 hectares of land were burned, and smoke affected air quality in several communities.