The B.C. government is reminding residents to be cautious about water conservation as drought conditions continue on most of the southern half of the province.
Some areas in the northern part of the province have seen rain recently which alleviated dry conditions, the southern half has not and still faces water scarcity.
“The unseasonable heat and dry conditions forecast mid-week and lasting through the weekend will continue to exacerbate drought conditions for many southern areas,” reads a news release from the government.
Voluntary reduction of water usage, from surface and groundwater in southern B.C. is encouraged. Voluntary water reduction already implemented in some areas has helped slow down the intensification of drought conditions and the need for regulatory action, the province said.
“All water users in affected areas need to reduce their use wherever possible and observe all watering restrictions from their local/regional government, water utility provider or irrigation district,” the release said.
If conservation measures do not achieve sufficient results and drought conditions worsen, regulatory action may be taken under the Water Sustainability Act, the province said. This includes temporary protection orders issued to water licensees to avoid significant or irreversible harm to aquatic ecosystems. Provincial staff are actively monitoring the situation and working to balance water uses with environmental flow needs.
British Columbia ranks drought levels from 0 to 5. Drought Level 5 is the most severe, with adverse impacts to socioeconomic or ecosystem values almost certain.
The only area under Drought Level 5 is the Kettle Basin located in the Kootenay region, where adverse impacts are almost certain.
Areas under Drought Level 4 as of Aug. 4, 2021, include:
- the North and South Thompson basins, as well as the Salmon River, Coldwater River and Nicola River watersheds in the Thompson Okanagan region;
- the Lower Columbia and West Kootenay basins;
- the Lower Mainland and South Coast basins; and
- the Vancouver Island basins and Gulf Islands.
In these areas, adverse impacts of drought on people, fish or ecosystems are likely.
Regions under Drought Level 3 include the entire Okanagan Valley, Similkameen, Cariboo/Chilcotin, the East Kootenay Basin and Skagit watershed. Of note, several local streams in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Cariboo/Chilcotin areas are experiencing greater impacts.
Ten other watershed basins in B.C. are either under Drought Level 2 or Drought Level 1.
Water used to extinguish a fire or contain and control the spread of a fire remains exempt from a provincial water licence or approval.
Many freshwater angling closures are in place throughout B.C. due to increased stress to fish from low flows and high-water temperatures.
The province is facing another heat wave, which could worsen wildfire risk and water scarcity issues.