Ongoing water shortages have led to the Penticton Indian Band (PIB) ordering a water protection order for the Shingle Creek Watershed as the Okanagan lingers under the province’s highest drought level.
According to the PIB, the drought in the region has led to flow levels in the system as low as 0.1 cubic metres a second.
“This flow is so low that the survival of syilx fish populations are threatened. Current flows are below the Critical Environmental Flow Threshold (CEFT) and PIB is taking immediate steps to preserve what water remains in the system to support fish and environmental flow needs” stated PIB natural resource director, James Pepper.
The Band is engaging all water users and actively monitoring the watershed.
A critical environmental flow threshold is a short-term flow threshold, below which significant or irreversible harm to the stream’s aquatic ecosystem could occur.
The Okanagan has been under a Drought Level 5 rating, the highest provincial level, since Aug. 16. The provincial government on Aug. 31 extended the provincial state of emergency another two weeks due to the ongoing drought and wildfire situation.
The band is the title and rights holder responsible for the decision-making regarding the lands, water and resources within the PIB Area of Responsibility, which includes the Shingle Creek Watershed.
The Shingle Creek Watershed is critically important from both a cultural and environmental perspective, playing roles in both the community and the local ecosystem.
“As of this moment we are restricting any and all surface water diversions from Shingle Creek and its tributaries including the irrigation of forage crops and hay production in an effort to support fish and fish habitat,” said Chief Greg Gabriel. “We will do whatever it takes to support our fish.”
The PIB’s fish hatchery is located adjacent to Shingle Creek but does not draw surface water from the system, according to the PIB, instead it draws water from an underground aquifer.
The water use was subject to a two-year study that found drawing from the aquifer did not impact the Shingle Creek Watershed flows.
The order will be in place until rescinded by PIB Chief and Council.
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