Province issues drought warning for the North

Extremely warm and dry conditions have prompted the province to set a Level 3 drought rating for the Peace, Upper Fraser East and Upper Fraser West areas.

Level 3 drought conditions call for voluntary water-use reductions from all surface-water and groundwater users, including municipal, agricultural and industrial users.

Many areas in the North are experiencing wildfires. Residents should be aware that despite recommendations to conserve water, under the Water Sustainability Act, it is not an offence to divert or store and use water from a stream or aquifer to extinguish a fire.

Stream levels across much of the North have dropped rapidly due to the recent dry weather. While some of the larger rivers still display normal streamflows, their tributaries have dropped to levels of concern for fish and ecosystems.

Larger systems, such as the Nechako, are not currently affected by the dry conditions, but they may be impacted if dry conditions prevail. Currently, there are no angling closures. However, staff are monitoring conditions and will assess whether closures will be necessary.

If voluntary reductions of water use are not sufficient to maintain flows above critical levels, the ministry may consider regulating water usage under the Water Sustainability Act. Specific actions could include the temporary suspension of water licences or short-term water approvals to restore flows to minimum critical levels in the affected streams.

Water users on all streams are reminded to ensure that water intakes are screened to Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s standards, to prevent fish from being pulled into water systems as water levels drop. Low water levels can impede the passage of salmon, increase susceptibility to disease or cause stranding or death due to low oxygen and high water temperatures.

Local municipal water conservation bylaws may differ from provincial water conservation targets due to local water supply and demand, and the availability of storage (lakes and reservoirs) or groundwater. Residential, agricultural and industrial water users who are located within municipalities and regional districts are encouraged to observe local water conservation bylaws where they exist.

Water conservation is everyone’s responsibility. Many communities in B.C. are prepared to deal with water supply shortages and low stream-flow conditions, and have drought management plans and water conservation programs already in place.

Water conservation tips:

At home:

* Limit outdoor watering.

* Don’t water during the heat of the day or when it’s windy.

* Consider planting drought-tolerant vegetation.

* Take shorter showers.

* Don’t leave the tap running (i.e. while brushing teeth).

* Install water-efficient showerheads, taps and toilets.

On the farm:

* Implement an irrigation scheduling program using real-time weather data.

* Schedule irrigation to match crop needs and soil storage capacity.

* Improve water system efficiencies and check for leaks.

* Focus on high-value crops and livestock.

Industry:

* Reduce non-essential water use.

* Recycle water used in industrial operations.

* Use water-efficient methods and equipment.

Learn More:

Drought Portal (maps, tables, angling closures): https://governmentofbc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=838d533d8062411c820eef50b08f7ebc

Drought Information: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/water/drought-flooding-dikes-dams/drought-information

River Forecast Centre: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/water/drought-flooding-dikes-dams/river-forecast-centre

Drought and Agriculture: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/agricultural-land-and-environment/water/drought-in-agriculture