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One valley. One water.

Between 2015 and 2018, the Okanagan Basin Water Board undertook an important and enormous project to find out where our Okanagan water is being used. It compiled water meter data from communities in the North, South and Central Okanagan, and determined that the average Okanagan household uses 1,032 litres of water each day. This is one of the highest rates of water use than anywhere in Canada.

At the same time, there is LESS water available per person in the Okanagan than anywhere else in Canada. (Source: Statistics Canada, Human Activity and the Environment: Annual Statistics 2003. Catalogue no. 16-201-XIE, p. 8.)

Residential Use
The figure of 1,032 L/day is an annual average for all Okanagan households. The study shows that the average family uses 391 litres indoors/day, and 641 litres outdoors per day (mostly in summer). As the chart below shows, residential outdoor water use spikes in April when we turn on the taps for our lawns and gardens, and continues into October. Some people even water in November.

Residential Water Use

Residents in the North Okanagan, where they receive more precipitation, use less water than South Okanagan residents who live in Canada's only pocket desert. People in communities that use water meters and pay for the amount of water they use each month often use less than those who aren't on water meters. Most Okanagan communities have installed, or are installing, residential water meters. Check yours to see how much water your household uses each day, each month, or each year!

Agriculture & Other Use
Interestingly, recent research also shows which sectors use what amount of water, and when. And, as one might expect, the greatest amount of water is used April to October, due to crop irrigation. While water use by some sectors remains stable throughout the year (e.g. commercial), other sectors use more mid-spring to mid-fall to meet outdoor watering needs (e.g. golf courses, parks, and agriculture).

Okanagan Water Use by Sector

Agriculture accounts for the largest use of water, but we refer to this as “working water,” producing food and other products that nourish our communities and support the economy. The Okanagan Valley is famous for its fruit and wines, and it takes a lot of water to keep the vineyards and orchards healthy and productive. Even so, there is no room for waste in an area known as Canada’s most water-stressed region. As such, the OBWB is working closely with water utilities in the valley and farmers to be WaterWise. Learn more about one such initiative here.

The second biggest use of water in the Okanagan is residential outdoor use — in other words, people's yards and lawns! Lush green lawns use a tremendous amount of water, making them more suitable for wet cities like Vancouver and Seattle. However, there are lots of ways to have a beautiful yard – even a practical turf area – that uses less water. Check out our Be WaterWise - In the yard page and our Make Water Work website with tips for outdoor water conservation.

We all share the same water in the same valley. We need to remember that how our communities use the valley and its water affects us all. The diagram below shows some WaterWise ways we can care for our valley.

How can you reduce your demand on our water supply? Check out our Be Waterwise sections for tips and links to great water saving ideas.


View other key findings from the Okanagan Basin Water Board's Water Supply and Demand Project.

Watch the journey water takes from the source, to our taps, and back to the source.



Okanagan WaterWise is an education and outreach program of the Okanagan Basin Water Board
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