This year’s Okanagan WaterWise program with the slogan “Make Water Work” takes aim at water waste in residential homes and gardens. The valley has less water available per person than anywhere else in Canada, but it has some of the highest use in the country. Household lawns and gardens account for 24 per cent of all water used in the Okanagan and a lot of it is wasted. This year’s campaign aims to promote a collection of plants that require less water and grow well in the drier Okanagan climate. The collection is sold through participating garden centre sponsors.
Mayors from around the Okanagan took a pledge to conserve water and they are challenging residents of their communities to do the same at www.MakeWaterWork.ca. “The mayors are competing with each other to see how many residents per capita are signing the pledge,” said Anna Warwick Sears, executive director of the OBWB. By making the competition on a per-capita basis, smaller communities have a chance to compete with larger cities, she said. “It’s a friendly competition and it gets the elected officials excited and involved,” she said, noting that one Kelowna councillor got so excited by what she heard at the launch that she left with a big cart full of drought-tolerant plants.
Anna Warwick Sears said one of the worst ways people waste water is by overwatering or giving plants far more water than they actually need. Another problem is that when grass is put down, it is often put on subsurface soil without a layer of topsoil.
The advantage to the Make Water Work plant collection is that people can have beautiful plants in their gardens that can be a permanent fixture and they don’t have to worry about pulling things out if there are water restrictions or stressing plants if they can’t water often, Warwick Sears said.
“You could have a permanent, beautiful garden and it’s a garden that’s appropriate for our climate,” she said. “Our climate is quite water stressed. Why would you want to live in Canada’s only desert and grow plants that need a lot of water?” Some of the plants on the Make Water Work list provide three seasons of colour interest. These include cushion spurge, thrift, catnip, lavender, Missouri evening primrose, tail sedum, coreopsis and blanket flower.