A Resource for Okanagan Lakeshore Living

A Resource for Okanagan Lakeshore Living

A Resource for Okanagan Lakeshore Living


Protect your property from
flooding and wave erosion, safeguard drinking water, and protect natural areas for future generations

Experiencing a localized flooding emergency? Contact your local fire detachment or Emergency Operations Centre.

Flooding is a common and naturally occurring event in British Columbia. Waterfront landowners are entitled to protect their property from flood damage through planned construction of erosion protection works, such as the use of sandbags to protect property during a flooding emergency.*

However, the Water Sustainability Regulation does not allow waterfront property owners to construct flood protection or other works in and about a stream during a flooding emergency (e.g. culverts, drainage diversions).

Waterfront landowners must apply for a Change Approval or submit Notification of instream works for ALL changes in and about a stream, including post-flooding recovery works. Please visit the following brochures for more information:

  • A Healthy And Natural Shoreline keeps the water safe and clean for people and animals.

    Plants Along the Shoreline can protect property damage from flooding, high waters and waves.

    The shoreline, also known as the foreshore or lakeshore, is the area where water meets the land at its highest natural boundary.

    The foreshore is the area below the natural boundary that allows for the rise and fall of lake levels during seasonal flooding from low to high water marks.

    These areas provide habitat to some of the most biologically diverse and unique aquatic and terrestrial species and their preservation is essential to a healthy functioning ecosystem and watershed.

  • Okanagan Lake Has 290 Km Of Shoreline and research from the 2016 Foreshore Inventory and Mapping update shows that the majority is developed, with only 41% remaining natural.

    In 2016, as part of a 7-year study, the entire 290 km shoreline of Okanagan Lake was mapped and analyzed using science-based research methods. Foreshore Inventory and Mapping (FIM) allows researchers to study shoreline health, identify land-use and land alteration.

    Findings from the 2017 FIM Update report indicate that only 41% of Okanagan Lakes’ natural areas remain intact, and that over 171 km of the 290 km shoreline has been altered or lost to development.* This is far less than what is recommended to support a healthy lake system.

    Environment Canada has published a review of existing environmental research called “How Much Habitat Is Enough?”, which recommends that 75% of the length of a riparian area should be naturally vegetated to protect water quality and ecosystem function.*

  • Increased Shoreline Development from 2009 to 2016, has added 165 retaining walls, 164 docks, and 9 new marinas around the lake.

    As population in the region continues to grow, there is increased development around Okanagan Lake and every change to the landscape has a direct effect on the ability of the lake to support us.

    Okanagan Lake and its connecting waterways are important resources which provides drinking water, water for our crops, recreation and tourism, and supports aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems that are vital to a sustainable and healthy environment.

  • The Okanagan Valley is Biologically Unique with some of the greatest concentrations of species and ecosystems in Canada. Many are found nowhere else in the country and in some cases the world.

    The Okanagan Region is known for its natural beauty, unique landscapes, and abundant recreational activities, and is one of the most biologically diverse areas not only in British Columbia, but across Canada. It is also one of the most vulnerable to increased development and loss of natural features due to increased urban sprawl and demanding access to the foreshore of our lakes.

    Loss of natural areas is placing our current lifestyle and well-being at risk. Expanding rural and urban development threatens the last remaining intact low elevation ecosystems in the Okanagan valley.

  • Okanagan Lake Has Two Distinct Types Of Kokanee Salmon that rely on sediment-free streambeds and lakeshores for spawning habitat.

  • The Syilx/Okanagan First Nation Territory extends from North of Revelstoke into Washington state. Learn more about the
    Syilx/Okanagan Nation and read about their Water Declaration here: www.syilx.org/about-us/syilx-nation/water-declaration/


Protect Your Property From Flooding

Deep-rooted trees and shrubs absorb water and wave energy, reducing shoreline erosion. This helps protect your property from flooding.

Plants provide up to 19 – 120 times more protection than large rock (rip-rap) and other hard surfaces such as retaining walls.*

Naturally vegetated lakeshores provide erosion control through deep aquatic plant roots that hold soils together and have the ability to uptake water and bring it back to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. In addition, riparian and forested areas are the glue that hold streambanks together, and act as enormous sponges, and their tensile strength allows them to soak up to as much as 45cm of rain.

When the natural lakeshore is altered by land clearing, soil disruption, or the removal of native vegetation, important flooding and erosion measures are lost – sometimes permanently. Artificial retaining walls break down overtime and are expensive to maintain in the long run. They also increase disturbance to the foreshore area, and create a barrier to ecosystem connectivity.

Safeguard Your Drinking Water

Native plants, trees, rocks, and soil help filter rain and stormwater runoff by trapping sediment and contaminants which protects water quality.

Natural shorelines and native vegetation protect our drinking water and filter and reduce runoff by returning water back to the atmosphere through evaporation and replenish groundwater resources through infiltration. Plants act like a pump, pulling water out of the soil and moving it into the air.*

Care For Kokanee And Wildlife

Fish spawn along the shoreline, and eagles and osprey rely on them for food. All wildlife need a healthy and safe place to survive and thrive.

Development near lakes, streams, and rivers reduces access to water for wildlife by creating a barrier between connecting habitats or habitat patches. Species rely on connecting corridors for survival and to access Okanagan Lake for fresh water, food sources, and habitat.* Shore spawning kokanee salmon, for example, are extremely sensitive to change and rely on safe streamside and lakebed areas along the shore to lay their eggs.

Champion Lakeshore Living

A healthy lake allows everyone to enjoy recreational activities on and around the lake. Help sustain the lake for your community, your health, and your well being. Become a guardian of the lake by protecting and enhancing the shoreline for visitors, residents, and future generations.

Waterfront property owners have the added responsibility of caring for the lakeshore and its surrounding areas. A balance is necessary between protecting your investments and protecting the environment.

Riparian vegetation provides key features and functions that help maintain biodiversity, enhance shoreline resiliency, and provide infiltration and retention of rainwater.

Lakeshore plants, woody debris, and falling leaf litter provide food and shelter for animals and habitat for fish. Terrestrial upland areas also form part of your buffer zone, attracting birds and wildlife for viewing and promotes connectivity.

Empower Economic Growth And Tourism

People from around the world come to work and play on Okanagan Lake. Keeping our shorelines natural can enhance property value, and protect the Okanagan’s beautiful vistas for everyone’s enjoyment and benefit.


The following beneficial practices outline ways that you can protect your property from flooding, enhance property value, and protect species at risk such as the western American badger or bank swallows. Upland, Riparian, Lakeshore, and Aquatic areas are all interconnected and rely on the health of each zone to sustain a properly functioning ecosystem.

Land below the present natural boundary of the lake is Crown land and is usually represented by the High Water Mark.

Unsure where your property line is? Contact a B.C. Land Surveyor.

Did You Know?

Any land disturbance in or around Okanagan Lake is subject to permit(s) and approvals. This may include authorizations from multiple agencies prior to proceeding with any proposed development.

A Screech Owl looking out from its nest.

Did You Know?

Western screech owls need older trees in riparian areas to nest, such as aspen and cottonwood. Removing old growth trees or snags in riparian areas alters this critical habitat.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development reports the Highest Target Lake Level of Okanagan Lake at 342.48 m above sea level, and the recommended High Water Mark for RAR at 343 m. These numbers are based on long-term average lake levels.

In the 2017 flood event, Okanagan Lake reached its peak at 343.25 meters above sea-level.

To establish site-specific property lines, it is important to obtain a recent land survey from a BC Land Surveyor to ensure you are complying with local regulations, as well as provincial and federal legislation.

Uplandlocal government

Upland areas are the drier, terrestrial areas above the riparian buffer zone.

How healthy upland areas benefit you:

  • Trees and shrubs reduce erosion, improve air and water quality, and help bring soil moisture to the surface for smaller plants.
  • Trees help homeowners save money on energy costs by providing shade in the hot summer months, and protecting against cold wind in winter.

    Studies show that naturally vegetated lakeshore properties can increase property value.*

  • Native plants are already adapted to the hot Okanagan climate, and require less water.

Beneficial Practices

  • Minimize disturbance by leaving as much natural vegetation as possible.
  • Avoid trimming vegetation along shoreline properties. If you want to reduce fuels near your home, consider alternate practices like cutting lower limbs.
  • Avoid using chemicals for landscaping (fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides).
  • Ensure your septic system is regularly maintained.

    Untreated sewage that enters a waterbody can cause eutrophication and algal blooms, and often appear as slimy green film on the surface of water and rocks. Be conscious of what substances you put down the drain or toilet. Avoid disposing of fats, oils, or antibacterial products into your septic system.

Riparianlocal government

Riparian areas are the transition between land and water.

How healthy riparian areas benefit you:

  • Riparian areas improve water quality by filtering runoff and preventing sediments and contaminates from entering the lake.

    Why protect riparian areas near lakes, streams, and wetlands?

    Riparian areas and upland buffer zones provide natural protection from erosion and pollution from surface water runoff.

    Some sources of surface water pollution include using pesticides on lawns, oil and gas seepage from driveways, and pet waste. Plants and vegetation in buffer zones naturally uptake and filter pollution before it reaches the lake or ends up in our drinking water.

  • Deep rooted trees and shrubs protect lakeshore areas against wind and wave action. Plants provide 19 to 120 times more protection than large rock (rip-rap).
  • Riparian and forested areas act as enormous sponges and can soak up as much as 45cm of rain. This helps mitigate flood damage.

Beneficial Practices

  • Allow native vegetation to grow and establish a natural buffer around the lake.
  • Manage invasive plants.
  • Avoid development and turf lawns in riparian zones.

    Polished lawns along lakefront properties do not have the same important features as buffer zones. Lawns move water quickly towards lakes, streams, and rivers, and displace native shrubs, plants, and grasses.

    Restoring your buffer zone and riparian area contributes to the overall health of the lake, promotes ecosystem connectivity, frames a view from your waterfront property, and maintains the natural beauty of the Okanagan Lake shoreline.

    Did you know? If you utilize a well as a water source on your property, you are using groundwater. Groundwater is water below the soil surface and is stored in underground rock and soil formations known as aquifers.

    When land is cleared or vegetation is removed and replaced with turf grass or pavement, the ground’s ability to absorb and infiltrate water is greatly reduced. This can cause greater spring water flows (freshet) which can cause wells to dry up in summer and fall months as well as deplete aquifers over time.

  • Use natural rock and gravel instead of retaining walls and paved surfaces.
  • Design a single, unpaved access to the shoreline. Riparian areas offer connectivity to upland habitats for wildlife.

Lakeshoreprovincial government

Lakeshore areas are the sandy shorelines and the lake beds below the present natural boundary.

Natural shoreline processes include the interaction of water, wind, and wave action that give Okanagan Lake its natural shape and various shoreline types.

The best way to protect the shoreline is often to leave it in its most natural state, as plant roots help stabilize the shoreline and protect your property from high water levels.

Removing concrete retaining walls and replacing them with native beach gravel, logs, large woody debris, vegetation, or boulders has a significantly positive impact on the lake’s natural shoreline processes.

How healthy lakeshore areas benefit you:

  • Aquatic plants form a flexible barrier along the waterfront that dampens the impact from wave action, reducing erosion.
  • Undisturbed lakeshores provide safe spawning grounds for salmon and improve lake circulation.
  • Natural shorelines provide aesthetic value by framing a more natural view from your home, and offer wildlife viewing opportunities.

Beneficial Practices

  • Leave logs and leaves untouched, as these provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife.
  • Limit disturbance to the shoreline and lakebed by foot and boat traffic. Never grade, or move soils around the lakeshore.
  • Keep pollutants and chemically treated wood products away from the lakeshore.

    Avoid the use of bark mulch near shores as it produces harmful leachates that can cause water quality issues and pollute fish habitat.*

  • Do not add fill, sand, or gravel to the natural shoreline.

Aquaticprovincial & federal governments

Aquatic areas include the water and all living things within it.

How healthy aquatic areas benefit you:

  • Water supports life. The lake provides drinking water, water for our crops and supports our recreational activities.

    Did you know? Okanagan Lake is a main drinking water source for many of its residents.

  • Water helps regulate climate because it can absorb vast amounts of heat energy.

    Water also uptakes carbon which reduces the amount of this harmful greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

  • Sunlight penetrates only a short distance in aquatic areas. Clear water in shallow areas promotes the highest diversity of native plants and animals.

Beneficial Practices

  • Minimize boat wakes near the shore to avoid erosion and damage to fish habitat.
  • Return to shore with everything you brought out with you.
  • Invasive zebra and quagga mussels are a huge threat to your investment and enjoyment of your property. If you use any type of watercraft (e.g. boat, paddleboard) or water recreation equipment (e.g. fishing gear, water toys), make sure to Clean, Drain, Dry all gear. Learn more at DontMoveAMussel.ca


Lakeshore residents can support healthy ecosystems and increase water quality by expanding or enhancing natural buffer zones. Native plants require little additional watering and maintenance after they have been established (usually 2-5 years).

Did You Know?

A natural buffer of 30-50 metres is the minimum width recommended to protect waterways from pollution and sediment. A much wider buffer is needed to protect plants and wildlife from human disturbance.

Recommended Native Plants


  • black cottonwood
  • ponderosa pine
  • trembling aspen
  • Douglas fir
  • mountain alder


  • Douglas maple
  • red osier dogwood
  • tall Oregon grape
  • snowberry
  • wild raspberry


  • showy aster
  • yarrow
  • blanketflower
  • heart-leaved arnica
  • showy milkweed

Help Stop the Spread of Invasive Plants

  • Siberian elm
  • Russian olive
  • tree of heaven
  • purple loosestrife
  • burdock
  • yellow-flag iris
  • oxeye daisy
  • houndstongue
  • cheatgrass
  • knapweed
  • white and yellow sweet clover

Want More Planting Recommendations?

Search for native plants in the Okanagan Xeriscape Association plant database (okanaganxeriscape.org/plant-database).

  1. Hard Surfaces = Big Consequences

    Retaining walls (rock, wood or concrete) increase erosion in adjacent areas. Walls break down over time and are expensive to maintain. Soften your shoreline by replacing hard surfacing with native rocks, gravel and plants to decrease erosion.

  2. Filter Instead of Fertilizing

    Manicured lawns allow water and pollutants to move quickly into the lake. Fertilizer causes excessive weed and algae growth. Planting and retaining native plants naturally filters storm water and protects water quality from pollution.

  3. Protecting the Shore

    Clearing rocks on the beach and creating rock piles into the water is known as a ‘groyne’. Groynes force young fish to swim into deeper water where they are in greater risk of being preyed upon. It is prohibited to dump sand, gravel, or fill on the shoreline. Deposits can destroy spawning sites and habitat for fish.

  1. Maintain Your Septic System

    A properly designed septic system can keep your water safe for drinking and swimming. Need an inspection or maintenance? Contact Interior Health Authority.

  2. Use the Power of Plants to Combat Erosion

    Frame your view with trees, and retain as many native plants as possible. Deep plant roots are great for holding soil together and stabilizing the shoreline. Trees and plants also provide food and shade for fish.

  3. A Dock Dilemma

    Docks are easily damaged with high water levels and can cause harm to fish and fish habitat. Construct a pile-supported dock following provincial regulations or consider sharing a dock with your neighbour. Want to learn more? Contact FrontCounter BC.


Want to Learn More?

Visit the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program website for other conservation resources.

BC Wildlife Federation Conservation AppReport All Polluters and Poachers (RAPP) 1.877.952.7277
Or download the BC Wildlife Federation Conservation App on your phone. This tool gives everyone the ability to protect our natural resources for future generations.

Regional District of Central OkanaganRegional District of Okanagan SimilkameenProvincial Government of BCSouth Okanagan Similkameen Conservation ProgramOkanagan WaterwiseCanada 150Real Estate Foundation of BC logoPhoto credit, front cover: Stuart Madden

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