By Lyonel Doherty
Drought mitigation is on the minds of Oliver Town council as it considers a draft plan of action in case it’s needed this summer.
On Monday council discussed a drought management plan presented by its consultant, TRUE Consulting
Public Works director Shawn Goodsell said drought planning has become a hot topic since the province declared a “level four” alert in the summer of 2015.
The Town came under some scrutiny when it did not implement voluntary water restrictions as a result of the alert.
But Town staff was directed to apply for a grant from the Okanagan Basin Water Board to develop a management plan. Last spring the grant was approved for the amount of $10,000, which will increase to $15,000 once final payment arrives.
Goodsell pointed out that Oliver may not necessarily be affected by higher level drought alerts because “our area is historically more arid, drier and hotter.”
The director said while many water purveyors in the province experienced lower water conditions in their reservoirs in 2015, Oliver did not.
“The Town experienced no significant drops in the groundwater aquifers, and the river levels were at sufficient levels for operating our canal system,” Goodsell said.
But the director said some people could look at the municipality in a negative way if it doesn’t implement restrictions to water users during provincial alerts.
Steve Underwood from TRUE Consulting said there was a request for voluntary water restrictions during the August 2015 drought alert, but Oliver did nothing about it.
However, Mayor Ron Hovanes said the Okanagan Basin Water Board acknowledged that different areas had different conditions at the time.
Underwood said the Town of Oliver would actually be drought immune for one year.
“There would have to be multiple drought years to affect us . . . a multi-year drought is what we’re most worried about. You never know when it could happen.”
Water councillor Rick Machial said they don’t want to inflict undue hardship on people just to be “politically correct” when a drought alert is issued.
Councillor Jack Bennest agreed, saying, “We shouldn’t restrict water because everyone else is doing it.”
Various stages of water restrictions include reduced lawn and garden sprinkling, whereas a Stage 4 alert is an emergency, characterized by a prohibition of outdoor water use.
Machial said if they had to shut down all the pumps for one day a week, the Town would give people a week or two of notice.
Bennest said the Town has never reached the crisis stage as far as he can remember.
Underwood said water restrictions in Oliver would not affect agricultural users as much as residential homeowners.
Town council will continue to work on the drought plan utilizing the water board grant.