Buoys sit on Okanagan Lake bottom near Kin Beach as lake level below normal

How low is too low?

Buoys that would normally be floating on the north end of Okanagan Lake are sitting on the muddy bottom, which is completely exposed.

Private boat lifts that line the shore won't allow boats to reach the water when lowered and, according to Shaun Reimer, who operates the dam at the south end of Okanagan Lake, which regulates its level, “the lake is several centimetres lower than the target level.”

But how low is too low?

Reimer says that's a tricky question. Under agreements with municipalities, they’re “actually allowed to take the lake level down even lower.”

He agrees Okanagan Lake is lower than usual for this time of year and attributes “several weeks in February with zero flows to the lake” with its current level.

Reimer explains “negative inflow means more water is being taken out of the lake than is going in right now.”

His department tends to be conservative on flood mitigation because of flooding experienced in the past, such as in 2017, when large parts of the Okanagan flooded.

He acknowledges the Valley has “had a lot of tough years, and we are seeing more difficult conditions,” which he considers to be a “consequence of climate change.”

Colder temperatures are also a factor.

“While we haven't had a lot of deep freezes, we’ve been cool at night and a lot of the snow that piled up before Christmas is still up there,” he says.

Lake levels are typically lowest at the beginning of April, but within a few weeks when “solar radiation” takes over, the melt will begin.

Okanagan Lake currently sits at slightly more than a metre below full pool, and Reimer anticipates water will be at its optimum level by the end of June.

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