Why water is a matter of concern

Water quality is often a topic of discussion at Advisory Planning Commission (APC) meetings for Area C, Christina Lake.

Over the years, the commission has dealt with many requests for varying the setback requirements to enable it to build a large home on a small, difficult lot.

Some property owners are understanding of the need to protect the lake shore riparian area while others are quite demanding. They see severely modified riparian areas in front of most lakefront houses and they want the same.

The Christina Lake watershed is sometimes referred to as a consumptive watershed, that is, it is the source of potable water for the families who live within it. The need to protect and preserve it is critical if it is to continue to fulfill that function.

Water has also been discussed at APC meetings because the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) has invested a large amount of money in a study of the Kettle River watershed, a vast geographical region that extends from the Paulson Pass on Highway 3 east of Christina Lake to Bridesville on the west. The northern most community in the watershed is the Big White ski resort.

The main rivers and streams in the watershed are the West Kettle River, Kettle River, Boundary Creek, and Granby River. Christina Lake is the largest body of water in the watershed.

The water study became necessary because of the deteriorating condition of the Kettle River. It has appeared on the list of BC’s endangered rivers for several years. In 2010 it topped the list.

Another reason for the study is that there may be too many water users of Kettle River water. Accurate records of the actual volume of water being consumed do not exist.

The study is timely because the government has begun the process of revising BC’s century old Water Act.

Research results released by Angus McAllister of McAllister Opinion Research in British Columbia show that people care about water. 98 per cent of British Columbians think fresh water is critical to the province’s prosperity and quality of life. Nine out of ten people who responded to the survey place fresh water at the top of the list as the province’s most precious resource. 94 per cent support stronger water regulations.

The challenge for the APC has always been how to convince lakeshore dwellers of the need to protect and preserve the lake’s riparian zone when they decide to build a new house, renovate an old one or do landscaping.

In 2010 the APC gave thought to a riparian area bylaw but after holding several public meetings during the year to discuss community reaction to a draft, the commission felt that it would be futile to pass a bylaw that could not be enforced, even if the RDKB employed a bylaw enforcement officer.

A softer approach was decided upon at a regular meeting on January 4, 2010. Riparian protection regulations for new construction will be incorporated into the development permit process and enforcement will then fall to the RDKB Planning Department and the building inspector.

Property owners who won’t be modifying their homes in significant ways will be encouraged to restore the riparian by planting indigenous plants and removing portions of lawns.

The approach being taken by the APC appears to be the best solution under the circumstances and it may result in the restoration of some of the lakeshore riparian zone and the preservation of those portions that still remain intact. Perhaps lakeshore residents will finally be convinced that they must take the best of care of their prime water source.