Jan. 9 KETTLE RIVER Q&A: Climate change and the watershed

Graham Watt, Kettle Watershed Management Plan project co-ordinator, talks about climate change and its effect on the watershed.

How will climate change affect life in our watershed?

As I gazed down from our nearby snowshoe route at the skiers and boarders on the slopes of Phoenix Mountain, I thought of how this little mountain is such a great asset to the community. Aloud, I invoked a wish that the abundant snow seen this year would continue, winter after winter.

I fear that it won’t be so.

As of data available in December, Canada was on track to have the fourth warmest year in Canada since 1948. The United States was again going for a record-setting year, with world data showing the same.

Year after year, decade after decade, our climate is warming, largely due to emissions of greenhouse gases and releases of carbon and methane from various sources.

The Government of B.C. estimates that the next century will bring a two to five degree increase in average temperature. In the Boundary region and across the province, the increased temperature, and other changes in climate conditions, will likely bring a diverse range of impacts, which will vary from year to year.

For instance, low-lying areas may see increased flooding and water-logged soil, while reduced winter snow pack and earlier snow melt will mean lower river levels in the dry summers and increased forest fire risk.

More of the winter precipitation will fall as rain, impacting snow sports and habitat. Higher temperatures in the summer will increase the need for water for people, aquatic ecosystems and irrigation and higher evaporation will lead to even greater water demand.

These conditions may have severe impacts on many aspects of our lives, in particular agriculture, fisheries, forestry and infrastructure protection.

To respond to these challenges, we will certainly need to “think globally” and act to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and dependency on fossil fuels. We can also plant trees and increase organic matter in our soils, which will also help our agriculture and landscaping adapt to droughts and high temperatures.

In the Kettle River Watershed Management Plan, we will consider climate change impacts in relation to potential future water demand from different sectors, and evaluate adaptation strategies such as water storage, water conservation, soil management, irrigation efficiency and landscape planning.

I will focus on many of these topics in future columns.

To ask watershed questions, email plan@kettleriver.ca.

– Graham Watt is Kettle Watershed Management Plan project co-ordinator for the RDKB