Kettle Valley Weather Station
We all know that water is one of our most important resources, and this is very true in the Okanagan which has less than 300 mm of rainfall per year. The Okanagan Valley is actually a desert, despite having a lake in the middle, so overuse of water is a major concern. Last spring 2013 the Regional District discovered that wineries use 5 to 8 litres of water for every litre of wine produced, and decided that this must be monitored. They installed water meters on all of the wineries, as well as most of the local businesses and some other agricultural and residential users. The statistics for the last year are now in
- The average residence in the valley uses 657,000 litres of water per year.
- That is 675 litres per person per day for 2.67 persons per residence.
- Fruit orchards average 1,140,000 litres per acre per year
- Vineyards average 329,000 litres per acre per year.
- Kettle Valley`s vineyard used 230,000 litres per acre
- Kettle Valley`s winery used 657,000 litres.
Overall we are pleased with that result. The winery used about the same as an average residence. In addition to that, all of the water used for washing in the winery is settled and reused for irrigation in the vineyard, bringing our net water usage in the winery to about 20% of the average residence. We could use less water for washing, but we have committed to using hot water, high pressure and steam for cleaning instead of chemicals, so that the water can be reused. We have identified some areas where there is room for improvement and we hope to see lower numbers next year.
In the vineyard, we used 70% of the average vineyard and 20% of the average orchard, but we still feel that we could have been more frugal. The advantages to careful irrigation management are: no excess growth to manage, fewer weeds, less disease and therefore less spraying, and smaller berries. Small berries give us darker, more intense wines and are one of the best contributors we know of for wine quality. In order to get smaller berries, we have to water just enough to keep the vines alive during key times. This is very hard to do without crossing the line and killing our vineyards, unless you have a way of monitoring plant water usage and soil moisture. So, we have just purchased a new, very complete weather station that will allow us to measure all of the typical weather data, such as temperature, rainfall, wind and humidity. It will also track soil moisture at multiple depths, soil temperature, irrigation times and leaf wetness. With this information we can calculate how much water is used by the plants and evaporation, check it against soil moisture, and run pest and disease models to minimize spraying without endangering the crop.
Now with all of the new information and tools at our disposal, we can continue to improve our water conservation and also maximize grape quality.