The Okanagan wine country in western Canada is an amazing success story. Twenty-five years ago, nobody had heard of the place and the only wine being made there was barely drinkable plonk. Today, it’s one of North America’s most promising wine regions, lauded by The New York Times as the “Napa of the North.” But behind the beautiful countryside and increasingly impressive wines is a big problem: lack of water. Much of the South Okanagan is desert, and the demands of agriculture and a new wave of wine tourism have stretched limited water resources nearly to the breaking point. I wrote about the region’s water problems and growing pains in a recent article for BCBusiness, a magazine based in Vancouver.
Tourism Threatens Water Security in the Okanagan
By Remy Scalza for BCBusiness Magazine
In the bone-dry southern tip of the Okanagan Valley, just outside the town of Osoyoos, a network of footpaths winds through thickets of sage and antelope brush. Braving the midday sun, a few hardy hikers – red-faced and sweating – push down the trail, leaving faint footprints in the sand and keeping an eye out for the rattlesnakes that make their home here, in Canada’s only desert.
What awaits around the final turn in the trail must first seem illusion, a trick played on the eyes by the shimmering South Okanagan heat. Abruptly, brush gives way. Neat rows of vines rise from the desert floor, leaves interlacing into a vast and improbable tapestry of green.
Here the path dead ends, sparse foot traffic giving way to the steady pulse of people and cars in the parking lot of Spirit Ridge Vineyard and Resort, one of a wave of new wineries and resorts to open in the South Okanagan in the last five years. In shorts and visors, visitors by the mini-busload spill into the wine shop, restaurant and wellness spa. Out back small children throng an oasis of pools, while duffers hack away on the Technicolor greens of a nine-hole course edged by sand and sagebrush just beyond. Surrounding it all, running right up to the 226 desert suites and vineyard villas at the sprawling resort, are grape vines: Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Merlot, ripening in the summer sun.
Click here to read the full article on BCBusinessOnline.ca.