Research and information needs assessment to support sustainable watershed management in the Thompson-Okanagan Natural Resource Region, British Columbia.
Watershed management issues are among the many challenges facing natural resource managers in British Columbia, Canada. The B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations conducted a research and information needs assessment survey to help identify specific knowledge gaps and develop strategic priorities for research to support sustainable water resource management in the Thompson-Okanagan Natural Resource Region of British Columbia. In total, 137 individuals who were familiar with surface water and/or groundwater issues in this region completed all or portions of the survey and identified priority topics for research, monitoring, data collection and policy development. The survey was conducted from 15 October to 31 December 2015. This report is the second in a series of regional assessments that are being conducted across British Columbia. The first regional assessment was completed in northeastern British Columbia. Survey respondents most frequently identified the following priority research and management information needs: (i) surface water quantity research on peak flow magnitude and timing; snow accumulation and melt rates; and low-flow magnitude and timing; (ii) understanding and management of cumulative effects and land use effects on all aspects of surface water, groundwater, aquatic ecosystems, and natural resource development hazards; (iii) climate change effects on all aspects of water resources and aquatic ecology; (iv) groundwater quantity research on surface water-groundwater interactions, and aquifer identification and characterization to quantify the availability and extent of groundwater resources; (v) water budgets to improve understanding of water availability/withdrawals to ensure sustainable allocation of both surface water and groundwater; (vi) environmental flow needs for fish-bearing streams, temperature-sensitive streams, and land use activities in riparian areas; and (vii) natural disturbance effects, and forest management and other land use effects on riparian areas, stream flows, and water quality. More than 70% of the respondents identified the need for increased monitoring of stream flow (hydrometric monitoring), groundwater (observation wells), and climate data to better characterize and identify surface water and groundwater quantity and quality and support sustainable allocation decisions. Priority data needs included online access to data, hydrometric monitoring data, online access to analysis results/products, snow survey, data, and online analysis tools. Key policy and regulatory needs that were identified included groundwater regulation and groundwater resource inventory to determine resource availability, quality, and threats to sustainability. Allocation and use of surface water and groundwater to support sustainable water supply, and new models for governance and decision-making regarding water allocation were also identified as policy and regulatory priorities. Government capacity and funding for resource management, monitoring, research, regulation, compliance, and water stewardship, along with climate-change effects, were considered to be emerging pressures and issues. Other emerging issues not identified in past needs assessments included threats from the introduction of zebra and quagga mussels to British Columbia. The survey results identified many of the same themes and topics that were identified in previous assessments. In addition to this report, a database of data sources, information sources and relevant research projects and publications from British Columbia and adjoining jurisdictions was compiled. The database is intended to provide a first stop for researchers and managers in locating key water resource information of regional relevance. The database is available at www.bcwatertool.ca/info-sources/.