As an irrigation district incorporated under letters patent by the provincial government in 1920, SEKID has evolved over the years to service the agricultural community. Over 80% of the district's total annual water use goes on crops and the current surface water supply is gravity fed and very cost-effective to operate. This allows for a reliable supply of affordable irrigation water to agricultural users.
The irrigation needs of the farm community are considerably different than residential use and the district bylaws, demand management system and operational services have been developed by successive boards to protect those interests and provide for those needs, both operationally and administratively.
An example of this is SEKIDs Agricultural Metering Program. SEKID relies on annual snow melt to replenish reservoirs in the highlands above Kelowna. The relatively small watershed means the district is susceptible to water shortages and this has become even more apparent in recent years with the effects of climate change. The ramifications of water shortages to the agricultural sector can be devastating. The inability to implement effective demand management during water shortages can actually increase demand as growers increase water use to insure they get their share.
To avoid this problem and make sure everyone gets their share of diminished water reserves, the district implemented an allotment system that effectively minimizes water waste and insures the equitable distribution of depleted water supplies under drought conditions. A more detailed description of the program can be found following the link below:
Toby Pike. January, 2005. Agricultural Water Conservation Program Review.
SEKID's program sparked some interest nationally and in 2007 the Government of Canada’s Policy Research Initiative produced a Briefing Note on SEKID as a part of their sustainable water use series. The document summarized the results of their analysis of the program as follows:
The pricing program established in 2000 in the South East Kelowna Irrigation District (SEKID) has had a significant impact on the demand for water per hectare.
Government of Canada. February, 2007. Briefing Note: Does Pricing Water Reduce Agricultural Demand? An example from British Columbia.
SEKID has also taken steps to manage the supply side of the water balance to increase the ability to adapt to a changing climate. Using a water rights system, the district tracks carefully the balance between long-term dependable supply and water rights obligations to the community to insure the water balance remains positive. The district has built surplus storage capacity into the recently constructed Turtle Lake Reservoir. With a total live storage capacity of about 1,700 acre feet, only 600 acre feet of that supply will be committed to water rights. The remaining 1,100 acre feet will be available to augment the water supply during extended drought events.