Water, Slowed Down, Wayyyy Down

Today, we’re continuing to follow the water down from the high slopes. Here’s the obvious water in the Okanagan, and the seeming destination of any water flowing down off the hills.

Okanagan Lake Beach

Human swimmers and sunbathers compete with ducks for these muddy shores. The humans like to think they’re winning, but then comes swimmer’s itch.

The surface water of the lake looks like water you might find in more common human habitats, such as coastal areas, where most humans live. The lake looks, for instance, a bit like this, just a couple hundred kilometres away:

The Broughton Archipelago

View from Telegraph Cove Over the Coastal Arc Towards the Dry Interior. This is a landscape rich in water. Water management strategies for the Okanagan are largely based on experience with landscapes and waterscapes of this kind.

It would be a mistake, however, to think of Okanagan Lake in the same terms as this ocean. One reason, is that the lake is not the destination for water flowing down through the hills. This is:

The Last of the Okanagan Landing Wetlands

Sharing its space with soccer fields and a trailer park. This is the true destination of the water of the grasslands on both sides of this arm of the valley. If the system is working properly, the water will only enter the lake once it has spent months slowly percolating through extensive beds of rushes here. Note the juvenile humans enjoying this, one of their natural habitats. Note as well the translation of water into recreation, in the terms of the soccer fields — broad transpiration engines, shedding water into the air.

The water that makes it to the lake is, in other words, not water that has flowed down off the hills, to rejoin the water of the lake, but, rather, water that has flowed down through the hills. This, the delta of all that water, does not moderate the return of that water to the lake, but, rather, modulates its return to the air. By slowing the water’s return to the lake, the greatest point of water loss to the dry air in the entire system, the marshes ensure that water remains protected for as long as possible, with its evaporation limited to the wettest and coolest months.

Tomorrow: some cool ideas on how to convert this principle into effective water management, all the way from the tops of the hills down to the lake itself.

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