Air quality

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The Regional Air Quality Program is a joint initiative between the City of Kelowna, City of West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation, the Regional District of Central Okanagan, District of Peachland and District of Lake Country.  

Aligning with B.C. Government initiatives, the program aims to protect and improve air quality in the Central Okanagan through education, awareness and pollution prevention. For complete information about the Air Quality Program, visit rdco.com/airquality or contact the Regional Air Quality Coordinator at 250-469-8408 or airquality@kelowna.ca.

View current air quality conditions

Air quality conditions

The current Central Okanagan Air Quality Health Index (AQHI)  identifies the health risk associated with local air quality conditions. The index corresponds to the recommendations for outdoor activities for those at risk and the general population.

AQHI risk category and recommended activities chart

Source- BC Centre for Disease Control

People with heart and breathing problems are at greatest risk. Follow your doctor’s usual advice about exercising and managing your condition.

Report air quality concerns

Residential
For residential smoke (indoor appliances), idling vehicles, and local air quality concerns, please submit an Environmental concern-Air Quality.

Outdoor burning
For outdoor wood burning, please visit our Outdoor burning page

Industrial
For industrial-related concerns about air quality in the Central Okanagan, please contact the Ministry of Environment (EnvironmentalComplaints@gov.bc.ca) or call the 24-hour RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) tip-line (1-877-952-7277).

The Ministry of Environment’s reactive team collects information from all the complaints it receives and uses that data to support planned inspections. Any evidence of ash or smoke leaving the property would be used to strengthen a complaint. If you’re including photos with your complaint, be sure the sun is at your back when the picture is taken.

What to do when a smoky skies advisory is in place

Please check current B.C. air quality advisories.

When an air quality advisory is in place for the Central Okanagan, please check the AQHI frequently as conditions can change within hours. Smoke concentrations will vary widely as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change. Check the BC Wildfire Dashboard Map and smoke forecasts to look for active wildfires and how smoke could affect our region in the next 48 hours. 

If you’re planning a trip within B.C., check the BC Air Quality website prior to your trip and during your stay to verify air quality conditions and learn how to protect your health. 

Precautions when the smoke levels are high

The most important thing to do is reduce your exposure to smoke. Be sure to drink lots of water, which can help reduce inflammation and try to not be too active.

At home

  • Stay indoors as much as possible
  • Try to keep your indoor environment smoke-free
  • Keep doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes, burning candles or incense, using wood stoves, and vacuuming during smoky periods (each of these causes unhealthy particulates to circulate in your indoor air)
  • Create a little clean-air shelter in your home by using a portable HEPA air cleaner
  • Use air conditioners on the recirculation setting so outside air will not be moved inside
  • Don't exercise outdoors

At the office

  • Reduce fresh air uptake into homes/offices
  • Buildings such as shopping malls, community centres and libraries also tend to have better indoor air quality because they have larger air filtration systems

Face masks

Older adults and children

  • Take extra precaution with children, who are more susceptible to smoke because their breathing systems are still developing and they breathe in more air (and therefore more smoke) than adults
  • Older adults are more likely to have heart or lung disease, which can make them more susceptible to smoke. Extra precaution should also be taken during forest fire season

While driving

  • Keep your windows and vents closed while driving
  • Only use air conditioning in the “recirculate” setting
  • Check road and weather conditions, as well as Wildfire Highway Closures
When to consider cancelling an outdoor event

If you’re responsible for children or organizing an outdoor event (such as coaches, teachers, daycares and sports clubs), you’ll need to use your discretion to decide whether outdoor activities should go ahead as planned, or whether they should be postponed or cancelled. As smoke conditions may change within hours, you should frequently check Central Okanagan current air quality conditions and smoke forecasts to make an informed decision.

While there’s no formal provincial guideline in place, some regions consider cancelling events when outdoor PM2.5 concentrations are above 80.5 μm/m3, or when the Air Quality Health Index is a Level 9 or higher.

Create cleaner air at home by installing an air purifier

Installing a HEPA Filtration unit, also known as an air purifier, in your home can help prevent harmful, smoky air from entering your residence.

Air purifiers are portable appliances that filter out really tiny particulate matter (PM) - 2.5 microns and smaller. These ultrafine particles are the most common and dangerous component of wildfire smoke.

HEPA air filtration units typically come with replaceable carbon pre-filters that also remove the volatile organic compounds in wildfire smoke, such as benzene, acrolein and formaldehyde. Pre-filters take care of larger particles such as pollen, too. And one more bonus: because the units blow out filtered air, they double as fans!

Portable filtration units use small HEPA filters and plug into a standard wall outlet in your home. HEPA air filters work best when all windows and outside doors are closed. 

Buy the right air filtration unit to fit the room where you'll use it most frequently, such as the bedroom

Most units list the size of room they can filter effectively. Others list a clean air delivery rate (CADR), in which case, choose a tobacco smoke CADR that covers at least two thirds of the room’s area. For example, a 10’ x 12’ room (120 square feet) would require an air cleaner with a tobacco smoke CADR of at least 80. If you buy a portable air cleaner, follow the manufacturer’s specifications to choose the right size for the room you will use it in. 

If you have a central heating and cooling system, the filters that can provide effective protection from wildfire smoke are the MERV 13 up to HEPA.

Be sure to have filter replacements available. During prolonged smoke events, the filter's efficiency could be affected.

Idling Control Bylaw

The Air Quality Program brings awareness about unnecessary idling as one way to tackle GHG emissions, improve local air quality and the health of residents in the region. City of Kelowna is the only city in the Central Okanagan with a one-minute Idling Control Bylaw in place, effective as of July 25, 2022.

We hope that with the support of Kelowna residents we can change our idling behaviors overtime.

How much money and fuel can you save?

Natural Resources Canada states the average Canadian idles for eight minutes per day.  If other family members also idle their vehicles, then as a family you are wasting too much fuel! 

Use the Idling fuel and money estimator to see how you stack up and start saving some money by changing your idling behaviour. 

Applicability

The Idling Control Bylaw No. 12378 general regulation is:

 "An operator or motor vehicle owner must not cause or permit a motor vehicle to idle for more than one minute (60 seconds)."

  • The idling Control Bylaw does not apply to zero emissions vehicles and partial-emissions vehicles or those with start-stop technology only while the electric motor/generator assists the gas engine. It also does not apply to vehicles when they are in traffic.
  • The Idling Control Bylaw applies to vehicles idling while parked in a: parking lot / drop-off zone / street/ driveway/ laneway/ pick-up zone or drive-thru restaurant, etc.

Please review the Idling Control Bylaw No 12378  for more information.

Report an idling vehicle

If you see vehicles idling excessively, you can  Report an Environmental concern- Air Quality. Please provide the license plate or physical address where excess of idling is taking place.

Education and Enforcement

An education period of six months will help bring awareness on the new regulation. This bylaw is complaints-based.

From July 25, 2022 until January 21, 2023: Residents could receive up to two warnings. A third complaint for the same license plate or address will be forwarded to Bylaw enforcement officers. Fines of $150 for the third and each subsequent offences could be issued.

After January 21, 2023. First complaints will receive one warning. Second and subsequent complaints for the same license plate or physical address will be redirected to bylaw enforcement officers. Fines of $150 for second and subsequent offences could be issued.

Bylaw Notice Enforcement

FAQ

Did you know that idling for more than  10 seconds produces more GHG and  wastes more fuel than restarting the engine?

For more idling information and Frequently Asked Questions, please visit RDCO-Vehicle Idling