UBCO research team brings Peachland watershed study to public

Forum seeks input; set for April 28, 7 p.m., at Peachland Community Centre

The Peachland Creek Watershed serves as a domestic water supply source for Peachland residents and creek feeding tributaries into Okanagan Lake. (File photo)

An initial step to involve the public in a significant UBC Okanagan research study into the Peachland Creek Watershed will take place at the Peachland Community Centre on Thursday, April 28, at 7 p.m.

Focused on the question of ‘Whose water is it anyway?’, the new study is intended to offer solutions on conflicting wildlife, Indigenous, domestic water supply and biodiversity issues facing the watershed.

In the April 28 presentation, study researchers John Wagner and Rheanne Kroschinsky, with UBC Okanagan, will describe the range of watershed organizations active in B.C. and elsewhere in North America, and the relevance of their approaches to watershed management for the Peachland Creek Watershed.

As research participants in the UBC Okanagan Watershed Ecosystems Project, Wagner and Kroschinsky will attempt to identify best practices for the design of watershed governance institutions that are inclusive of both Indigenous and settler culture values and interests, with a commitment to the long-term ecological health of the watershed being a keystone for striking a reasonable balance among the competing interests in many watersheds across the province.

Wagner is a professor of environmental anthropology at UBCO. He conducts research on human/water relations in the Okanagan Valley, Columbia River Basin in Canada and the U.S., and Papua, New Guinea.

In his Columbia River Basin research, Wagner focuses on water governance and the relationship of the Columbia River Treaty to irrigation, food security, food sovereignty and Indigenous rights.

In the Okanagan Valley, he has conducted research on settler colonialism, the history of water management, and floodplain restoration as a climate change mitigation factor.

With the Peachland Creek study, Wagner has a special interest in understanding how licensing decisions are made about watershed activities, fully recognizing community residents often feel frustrated by their lack of apparent voice in those decisions.

“From a social science perspective, this has been attempted on different scales in lots of places…you bring the watershed users to the table to work together and make decisions, ” Wagner said.

He said research consultation for the Peachland study will involve Sylix area chiefs, the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Sylix knowledge holders, Peachland residents and civic government, and various government agencies mandated to make watershed use decisions.

Wagner said his hope is the model developed from the Peachland study will also be applied to other community watersheds across the Okanagan Valley and throughout the province.

Also involved in the research effort from UBCO are Adam Wei, watershed management research chair and cluster lead; Jeanette Armstrong, Canadian Research Chair Okanagan Indigenous Knowledge and Philosophy; Lael Parrott, biology professor; Rehan Sadiq, anthropology professor; Jeff Curtis, earth, environmental and geographic sciences professor; and Hilary Ward, section research head for the Ministry of Forests and an adjunct biology professor.

The Peachland Community Centre is located at 4450-6th St. For more information see www.peachlandwpa.org.


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