Spotlight on Riparian Areas

Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance Cottonwood Riparian Area Locatee Land Conservation Area, Penticton by Dick Cannings riparian_area
Cottonwood Riparian Area Locatee Land Conservation Area, Penticton by Dick Cannings
What is a Riparian Area?

The word riparian comes from the Latin word “ripa” meaning bank or shore. Riparian areas are the fringe of vegetation found between forests and wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams. They are often referred to as shoreline areas and can be characterized by lush vegetation including combinations of trees, shrubs, cattails, sedges and grasses.

Riparian areas are highly valuable ecosystems. They connect water with land and act as natural filters of both surface water and groundwater. As well, riparian areas buffer against flooding and erosion. Characteristic vegetation of the Okanagan and Similkameen riparian areas include the black cottonwood, wild rose thickets, red-osier dogwood, western birch and willows.

Where did it go?

Most of the riparian habitat in the valley bottoms has been lost to urban, rural or agricultural development. Much of what is left is fragmented or degraded.

Riparian areas are critical to the health of our environment

They help to keep water clean by trapping sediment and pollutants.

Canada faces constant threats to water quality

Despite considerable efforts to curb pollution, water quality is still a major concern for Canadians.Many municipalities have been forced to issue boilwater orders. Agricultural run-off has contaminated drinking water supplies, as in the case of Walkerton, Ontario, and industries discharge hundreds of different substances into rivers and lakes daily. In 2001, more than 2,600 industrial facilities reported chemical discharges to water bodies.

What will happen to the water in the valley?

Over the past 30 years, the population of British Columbia’s Okanagan-Similkameen river basin has more than doubled – the fastest growth rate among the 23 major river basins in Canada. However, this scenic region in the British Columbia interior also has one of Canada’s lowest renewable supplies of fresh water.
Quality and safety of drinking water is one of the top environmental concerns of Okanagan Similkameen residents.More than 77% are concerned about water resources when asked.

What you can do

  • Protect stream health and productivity when considering residential, commercial or industrial activities proposed within 30m of a stream or lake. Landowners must consult with the BC Riparian Areas Regulation and may require the assessment of a qualified professional in order to implement any changes. Your local government can provide you with information on applicable by-laws.
  • Leave riparian areas in a natural state on your property.

  • Consider enhancing riparian areas as a community project.
  • Consult your local stewardship or conservation groups for more information.

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