Changing Perspectives – Changing Paradigms: Taking The ‘Soft Path’ To Water Sustainability In The Okanagan Basin

Canadian Water Resources Journal

Published On: July 1st, 2006

Author: Oliver M. Brandes and Lynn Kriwoken


Access to fresh water is vital to Canada’s long-term prosperity. Water is the foundation of our economy and communities, and is essential for all forms of life. Yet despite its critical importance, water is undervalued and often wasted. Perceived as an abundant and virtually limitless resource, the myth of abundance is entrenched even in water-stressed areas such as the Okanagan, where drinking water supplies are at risk, conflicts among water users are common, economic opportunities are threatened, and aquatic ecosystem health and fisheries are declining. Population growth, coupled with the uncertain (yet increasingly evident) impacts of climate change, will only increase these challenges in the future. Water conservation and demand management are critical components in a lasting long-term and sustainable approach to water management. Demand management offers a genuine win-win solution as communities reap both environmental and economic dividends from reducing water use. To demonstrate that conservation is the next best source of “new” water in regions where supply is limited, this paper outlines opportunities to move toward more sustainable water management. A comprehensive and long-term approach to water demand management, referred to as the “soft path,” requires active participation by water users and effective strategic planning to create the appropriate mix and timing of conservation measures for the region. Lasting solutions require changes in attitudes and opinions about water and must draw on innovative tools and best practices from other jurisdictions to create a basin-wide and comprehensive “made in the Okanagan” approach to sustainable water management.

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Suggested Citation

Brandes, O.M., & Kriwoken, L. (2006). Changing perspectives–changing paradigms: taking the “soft path” to water sustainability in the Okanagan Basin. Canadian Water Resources Journal, 31(2), 75–90.