The Ditch: Lifeblood of a Community

Creator(s): Oliver Museum

Irrigation and the South Okanagan Lands Project

During a minor gold rush in the Okanagan area in the late 1800s, settlers found that the thirsty ground was rich enough for growing orchard and vine crops. Some of the original trees from this era still exist. The distribution of water, however, was insufficient to take advantage of the rich glacial soil. Several attempts at irrigation were made with small, locally developed projects, but the sheer force of spring runoff and intermittent washouts from heavy rain undermined success.

John Oliver's Plan for Veterans

The area remained largely undeveloped until the deep recession following World War I. With most of the province facing 20 per cent unemployment, returning veterans encountered poor prospects for work, but the Liberal government of the day under John Oliver devised a plan for veterans to acquire irrigated land at a reasonable price. If people could not find employment, at least they could grow food for their families.

This Community Memories exhibit presents the history of the South Okanagan Lands Project, also known as the 'Ditch' or the John Oliver Project.

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