Just as in our backyard, the protection of water in our lakes and in the backcountry is vitally important.
The Okanagan is well-known for its outdoor activities—swimming, boating, hiking, camping, ATVing, skiing, and more. As we explore our beautiful surroundings, it is important to remember that our lakes, rivers and streams are connected and are sensitive ecosystems.
Stop invasive hitchhikers
Aquatic Invasive Species are non-native plants and animals introduced to a lake, river, creek, wetland or other water body. Without natural enemies to control their spread, these species out-compete native plants and animals for food and space.
A good example is Eurasian Watermilfoil (milfoil), first discovered in the Vernon Arm of Okanagan Lake in 1970. Today, this pesky weed is kept in check by the Okanagan Basin Water Board, with rototilling in the winter and harvesting (mowing) in the summer. Learn more about milfoil in our video.
Another invasive species of concern is the zebra mussel, and closely related quagga mussel. These mussels have not been found in the Okanagan, but have been discovered in numerous U.S. lakes and all five of the Great Lakes. There are great efforts to prevent their introduction into our waters. These freshwater mussels are known for causing billions of dollars in damage to local government infrastructure. They clog water intake pipes, but also out-compete local species for food and affect water quality.
In the late days of summer 2014, after hearing our Don’t Move A Mussel message and learning of the threat posed by invasive mussels, Okanagan filmmaker Brynne Morrice set out to do what he could to protect Okanagan and B.C. waters. A few short months later, he released a film, “Mussel Threat,” which illustrates just how dangerous these mussels are, and is a rallying cry for the protection of our beloved waters.
Check out his video here:
Learn more at www.dontmoveamussel.ca.
Find flyers, kids activity sheets and more on Aquatic Invasive Species here.
Go soap free
Whenever possible, avoid using soap in the backcountry (even biodegradable ones). The chemicals in soap can harm fish and aquatic plants and cause algae blooms that turn clear water murky. Make your backcountry showers and baths soap free. If you use soap to do your camping dishes, dump the soapy water far from any watersource. The ground can act like a filter to remove the soap before the water makes its way back into the water system.
Stick to maintained trails
Off-road activities, like dirt- or mountain-biking, near watersources can compact soils, reducing the flow of groundwater, and can kick up sediments, creating murky water that harms aquatic creatures. Grease and oil from bikes can also contaminate the water. Instead, stick to maintained trails in approved riding areas and avoid riding near or through streams and creeks. Use those challenging bridges!
Get wild about wetlands
Wetlands, once considered a nuisance and a waste of valuable land, are an important part of our valley.
A wetland is an area where the land is wet or flooded for at least part of the year. Wetlands include marshes, bogs, fens, swamps and areas of shallow open water. At one time, wetlands and riparian areas covered a large portion of our valley bottom. But during the last few decades, as we channeled water ways in an effort to control flooding, and as the Okanagan’s population has swelled and we have filled in these areas with homes and other buildings, more than 85% of our wetlands and natural riparian areas have disappeared. Remaining areas are at risk of loss.
Today, we understand the importance of wetlands. They act like giant sponges during storms, soaking up extra storm water which prevents flooding. They also act as giant filters, absorbing pollutants and dissolving them over time. They’re also home to a diverse ecosystem with many rare and endangered plant and animal species. And then, of course, many people enjoy visiting wetlands, listening to the singing of red-winged blackbirds, hoping to spot a majestic Great Blue heron, or a frog or Painted Turtle.
Find a wetland in your neighbourhood by clicking on the map here!
PLUS – learn about Okanagan wetlands with our new interactive website OkanaganWetlands.ca – profiling valley wetlands in English, French, and in Nsyilxc?n (the language of the Syilx people, the original inhabitants of the Okanagan).
We are also working with several groups to help restore these precious areas. For more information, visit: www.obwb.ca/wetlands.
For more information on wetlands, visit:
- Habitat Atlas for Wildlife at Risk
Riparian & Wetland Ecosystems
- Ducks Unlimited Canada - Learn About Wetlands and Education
- BC Wildlife Federation's Wetlands Education Program
Ninjas? Water Warriors -- protecting the Okanagan's water?
Check out this video and learn what you can do to help look after our drinking water!
Learn more about milfoil control in the Okanagan!
For more information about backcountry use in watersheds visit: