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Water Use and Water
Source Protection

Reducing water use & protecting water sources

Reducing Water Use & Protecting Water Sources

  • Ensure proper grazing management. Overgrazing reduces soil and grass health, leading to poor water absorption increased runoff.

  • Calibrate and inspect irrigation systems on a regular basis.  Leaking sprinkler heads and hoses can waste thousands of litres of water. Check for leaks by turning off the system and monitoring the meter to see if it is still running. .

  • Use a soil moisture monitoring device that tests soil water content  to maximise irrigation efficiency and minimize water use.

  • Consider harvesting rainwater in wet months to use when conditions begin to dry up.

  • Ensure good manure management to prevent runoff

Protecting Groundwater

  • Minimimse chemical intervention.  Excessive use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can leach through soil and contaminate groundwater. Check out the Chemical Intervention page

  • Maintain septic systems to prevent leaks.

  • Perform regular checks and inspections of regularly used wells, and cover and properly decommission old unused wells.  Direct groundwater contamination can easily occur from spills beside improperly sealed well casings,  abandoned wells, flooded well pits or foreign material entering a well.


Protecting Surface Water

  • Store, use and dispose of all hazardous materials or waste using proper procedure and containment practices. This includes any chemicals such as gasoline, pesticides, fertilizers, and cleaners but also physical materials like tires, old equipment, and plastics

  • Keep a large, wide area around the edge of a water source clear of farm equipment and materials.

  • Maintain a thick, healthy 'buffer' of vegetation in that unused area around creeks, rivers, wetlands, and seepage areas.

Riparian areas on the farm

Wetland and Riparian Areas on the farm

Why do these areas matter?
Wetlands and riparian areas provide a great deal of valuable unseen services to the farm besides simply providing water and looking nice:

  • Vegetation in riparian areas will capture and hold pollutants from runoff, providing some safeguarding to help keep water clean in case of minor spills or accidental overapplication. Wetland plants can sequester some of these pollutants and remove them entirely.

  • Roots from trees and shrubs stabilize creek banks from collapse and will decrease soil erosion and siltation.

  • During floods and high water, large natural areas beside creeks and rivers act as floodplains and capture high water flows, slowing water speed and holding excess water to reduce flooding downstream.

  • Wetland areas can hold millions of litres of water during floods to reduce flooding but will also hold that water during drought.

Approximately 85% of Okanagan wildlife species rely on riparian habitats or use them regularly. If integrated pest management and pollinator power are your goals for the orchard, then leaving large areas of  riparian or wetland habitat intact is a zero-effort way to obtain many of those benefits.


What do these areas look like?

Riparian area is the general term that describes the thick, often forested habitats around any body of water, from wetlands to creeks to sloughs to rivers.  These areas have a different community of plants that that of adjacent upland areas. requiring more water but not necessarily growing in the water like cattails or rushes.


Wetlands are lands that are saturated with or covered by shallow water for part or all of the year creating wet soils and supporting water-loving plants. They can include shallow ponds, marshes, swamps, annually flooded fields, seepage areas, and bogs. Even if they dry out completely in summer, they are still classified as wetlands, just 'ephemeral', or seasonal wetlands.

Retaining water access for livestock

Retaining watering access

Ponds and wetlands are important sources of water for livestock, but fencing
around the water while leaving an adequately sized "nose-in" allows livestock access to water while protecting shorelines and keeping manure out of the water. "Nose-ins" protect stream banks from damage which reduces erosion on your farm and improves water quality.

Caring for and restoring vegetation buffers

Leave it alone! Riparian areas are very capable of maintaining themselves. Dead standing trees are not inherently unsafe and can remain standing for decades - get an arbourist to check them out if you are concerned. "Messy" looking areas are just the natural structure of these habitats. Tidying them up will reduce their effectiveness and benefits.

Manage invasive species in riparian areas

Prevent free and open access by people, equipment and livestock. Build as few bridges as possible to maintain effective access across creeks.  Any construction withing 30 metres of a creek MUST apply for comply with Water Act permits.

Restore, enlarge or enhance your riparian buffer if you think it may be lacking. Avoid adding any plant species that isn't native to the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. Need help restoring your buffer? Contact Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship for potential partnership opportunities

Taking care of riparian and wetland areas

Further Reading

The following resources are information-only. Find the Financial Assistance page here

Okanagan Basin Water Board: Agricultural Water Users

Stewardship Centre of BC: Managing Agricultural Waterways

Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship & Ducks Unlimited: Managing Wetlands in an Agricultural Environment

BC Cattleman's Association: Restoring Riparian Buffers

Langley Environmental Partners Society: Stream Crossing Guide

Government of BC: Manure Application Seasonal Restrictions

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