Drought level rating increased across the province

Record breaking hot and dry conditions have caused widespread elevation of drought levels.

The areas that are most affected are northern B.C., coastal areas and Vancouver Island.

The Province has set a Level 4 drought rating for the Northeast, Northwest, Stikine and Skeena-Nass areas, as well as all of Vancouver Island.

The Province is elevating the drought rating to Level 3 for the Lower Columbia, West Kootenay, East Kootenay, Middle Fraser (Cariboo), Nicola, Coldwater River, Salmon River, South Thompson, Skagit and Nechako areas.

The drought rating for the East Peace area is being raised to Level 2.

Forecasted precipitation in some parts of the province, in particular the Peace Region and across the North, is not expected to significantly diminish drought levels.

As drought levels increase, maximum voluntary water conservation is strongly encouraged to maintain water supplies. The Province has the ability to regulate water usage, including temporary suspension of water licences or short-term water approvals, should it become necessary, to protect flows for fish and for priority water users.

However, the hot and dry conditions that have elevated drought levels have also triggered widespread wildfires throughout the province. In recognition of the need to protect personal property and businesses from these devastating fires, residents are advised that the use of water from streams, lakes or aquifers to extinguish a fire may be necessary and is authorized under the Water Sustainability Act.

There are no regions in the province that remain at Level 1 normal streamflow levels. However, because of the variance of conditions within each region, some individual streams may be lower than others. Both tributaries and larger main-stem rivers are now experiencing rapidly dropping stream levels. Many streams are now at record lows.

Fish and aquatic ecosystems are at risk as water levels drop. Fish can become stranded in pools and exposed to high temperatures, which can be fatal, and may be subject to predation. Water users on all streams are reminded to ensure that water intakes are screened to Fisheries and Oceans Canada standards to prevent fish from being pulled into water systems as water levels drop.

Angling closures are in effect on the Horsefly and Kettle Rivers to reduce stress on fish. Staff are monitoring conditions and will assess whether further angling closures will be necessary.

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:

* observe local watering restrictions where applicable

* limit outdoor watering

* ensure irrigation and plumbing systems are well maintained and check for leaks

* use water-efficient appliances and plumbing fixtures

* take shorter showers

* do not leave the tap running (e.g. while brushing teeth)