A call for community input on forest and watershed management
The water from local Peachland resident Taryn Skalbania’s tap used to trickle out brown. That is, if any water came out of the tap at all.
And it wasn't just her drinking water that Taryn was worried about. She’d also noticed that clearcuts were rapidly encroaching on her favourite walking, hiking and horseback riding trails. Quickly, Taryn began to make connections between the health of local forests and the quality of her community’s drinking water.
“Our forests are the best water filter we have,” she says.
Spurred to action by the immediacy of the threats facing her watershed, Taryn called up anyone and everyone she thought might be interested in having a conversation about what could be done to protect the forests and water that Peachland relied upon. As the community member with a house big enough to host, enviable cooking skills and a full beer fridge - Taryn was able to gather people around her dining room table 6 years ago to form the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance.
It’s beginnings were humble, but now there are 70 members of the watershed alliance in Peachland, and the group is growing all the time.
“We formed with the mission to inform our local taxpayers about what was really going on in the watershed, and arm them with information so that they could go to municipal and provincial governments to demand change," Taryn said. "There’s so many pressures on our water, cattle-ranging, mining, logging, road-building, and our little Peachland taxpayers have absolutely no say.”
Taryn’s upbringing has had a huge impact on how she views watershed governance and regulation of water use.
“I was born and raised on the coast,” shares Taryn. “Our water was clean there.”
In the years Taryn spent living in Victoria and Whistler during her childhood, she hadn't once worried about the quality of water coming out of her tap, or how much water she was using. But upon moving to the Okanagan, that became a different story.
“I washed my car on an asphalt driveway, I pressure washed my house, and I had the sprinklers on 24/7,” Taryn confessed to me. “And the first time somebody said they were going to meter my water here in Peachland I was shocked. I didn't want to be told how much water I could use or not.”
But now Taryn holds a different perspective.
“If we meter it, measure it, pay for it, we will value it more, and maybe, just maybe, we will preserve it more.”
A big part of that though, she says, is understanding where our water really comes from, and that understanding, for her, changed her attitude towards water use.
“I was never so naive to think water just comes from a tap,” she said. “I knew it came from a reservoir, or from behind a dam, or in a lake, maybe the sky I thought, but I didn't know the integral role that forests had in storing, producing, supplying, and cleaning our water. And I don’t think a lot of people where I’m from understand that either.”
But Taryn is really starting to hope that people realize it soon.
At the current speed at which trees are being logged in B.C., entire forests are falling every day, and with those disappearing forests, goes our best natural water filtration system. Our watersheds are at risk. And it’s time to act.
CodeBlue BC is a plan to secure and sustain watersheds in BC. As a Champion for CodeBlue, Taryn believes that supporting this plan, which includes, giving local people the power and resources to restore and manage their local water sources, will not only help Peachland taxpayers'' but British Columbians in each of the other 488 watershed regions that communities depend on for clean drinking water in B.C. finally have a say in how their watersheds are managed. If you want to get involved, sign up at codebluebc.ca or peachlandwpa.org.