The Kettle River – How high for how long?

Kettle River Q&A column by Jennifer Mace, May 4 Grand Forks Gazette.

by Jennifer Mace

Everyone can see that the Kettle River is high this spring, from the flooding at City Park to the rushing water under the black train bridge. In fact, the river has been running more than twice as high as the 86-year average recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey for March and April, 2016.

Despite above average water runoff, the possibility of drought this summer is still high. Both the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and the North American Space Agency (NASA) have released data showing that globally, March 2016 was the hottest on record. Not only has March beat the record for temperature, so had January 2016 and February 2016.

Even if you don’t believe that climate change is occurring, these results are troubling and both point to a hot and dry summer.

If temperatures remain high and rainfall remains minimal, we must consider the possibility of drought. A striking example was in 2003 where there were above average levels of water in the Kettle River in the spring but as high temperatures and low rainfall persisted throughout the summer, a drought was experienced partnered with a large number of forest fires, particularly around Kelowna.

This is a lesson that cannot be forgotten. Although there are high water levels now, we cannot depend on that to continue throughout the summer.

Here at the Kettle River Watershed Management level, we are beginning to work on a drought management plan that will include input from local government water suppliers (e.g. City of Grand Forks, City of Greenwood, Village of Midway, Christina Lake). The water suppliers have agreed that this will be a useful tool for managing drought as a team.

Also, this team agrees that education is the main area that should be focussed on to conserve water and minimize the impacts of future droughts. Education and water conservation starts with every citizen, farmer, and business owner.  Everyone can help conserve water.

If watering your garden or lawn, do so at night or in the early morning (60 per cent of water can be lost to evaporation if using sprinklers to water during the day, which equals six litres lost and only four litres making it onto your lawn!); collect and use rain water; install and use drip irrigation to water your gardens and trees; and/or replace your grass with drought resistant evergreens and plants.

Every action that we take to conserve water and protect the river will be appreciated by generations to come. Should the City of Grand Forks councillors have decided to remove the Level 2 water restrictions? Only time will tell. Conserve water and pray for rain.

 

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