Who speaks for Peachland’s watershed?

Do you know who owns Peachland’s water? Who is responsible for Peachland’s water, who should be? What authority do local Indigenous people have over this ecosystem? Do you know who makes the decisions governing our water and watershed? Whose water is it, anyway?

The Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance (PWPA) wants answers. Fortunately, a new study focusing on these issues has just been launched, and it is centered 100 per cent in our community drinking watershed.

The study will explore why the Peachland watershed ecosystem is unique, this geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and landscape, work together to form a bubble of life. It will also ask how is this community of interacting organisms and their environment affected by change. Most importantly it will explore how our water is managed and look for the best ways to “govern” our water source.

 John Wagner and Rheanne Kroschinsky, two of a team of researchers from UBC Okanagan, 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, committed to the long-term ecological health of the watershed, and capable of striking a reasonable balance among the competing interests that always occur in community watersheds such as Peachland Creek.

They will also study the selection of watershed organizations active in British Columbia and elsewhere in North America and invite the audience to discuss with them the relevance of those organizational approaches to the Peachland Creek Watershed.

John Wagner is a professor of environmental anthropology at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. He conducts research on human/water relations in the Okanagan Valley, the Columbia River Basin in Canada and the United States, and in 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 strategy. As a co-investigator for the Peachland Creek Watershed Ecosystems project, his focus is on watershed governance. 

Wagner is especially interested in understanding how licensing decisions are made about watershed activities and fully recognizes that community members often feel frustrated by their lack of voice in those decisions. One approach to resolving decision-making conflicts is to invite all interested parties to the table, where they can learn from one another and develop an underlying set of principles to which they can all agree. 

Involvement of Syilx area chiefs, the Okanagan Nation Alliance, and Syilx knowledge holders will be integral to the research project, as will engagement with the District of Peachland and Peachland residents, and the various government agencies mandated to make watershed decisions. The final governance model will be developed on the basis of their collective knowledge and advice to the research team. Ideally the model developed for Peachland Creek can also be applied to other community watersheds in the Okanagan region and elsewhere.  

Wagner and Kroschinsky will be in Peachland on Apr. 28 to meet the community and present the details of this project and how it might affect you.

The presentation will be hosted by the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance on Apr. 28, from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. at the Peachland Community Centre, located at 4450 6th St.

Join us for conversations, coffee and cakes. For more information visit peachlandwpa.org or email peachlandwpa@gmail.com.

Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance

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