Agricultural water needs raised

Fruit growers say the municipality and region need to take measures to ensure there is enough water for agriculture during drought years.

Fruit growers say the municipality and the region need to take measures to ensure there is sufficient water for agriculture during drought years.

Speaking to municipal council on Monday, B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association president Glen Lucas and Summerland orchardist Denise MacDonald said a dry year could be detrimental.

“If we ever do get a drought, we aren’t prepared for it at the agricultural level,” MacDonald said.

A decade ago, in 2003, Summerland experienced one of the worst drought years in its history. Following that experience, the capacity of Thirsk Lake was increased, expanding the community’s water supply.

“The solution is more storage,” Lucas said.

He added that the greater efficiency in water use has also helped fruit growers, but further measures will be needed, especially as climate change affects precipitation patterns. “We need more of an area-wide approach,” he said.

Municipal administrator Tom Day said the present discussions about water are about domestic rates. However, dialogue with the agricultural community will be reopened once the residential billing questions have been answered.

The Fruit Growers’ Association represents 540 member orchardists in the province. B.C.’s fruit industry is only 1/30th the size of Washington State’s apple industry, but there are many positive aspects about it.

“I think we’re the best Ambrosia and Gala producer in the world,” Lucas said. “Our growers are very advanced, even compared to Washington State.”