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Recent rain brought little relief as B.C. faces increasing drought conditions

Province urging residents to conserve water as northeastern corner of B.C. is extremely dry

The provincial government is urging British Columbians to conserve water as current forecasts suggest much of the province will experience drought conditions this summer.

The appeal appears in an information bulletin from the Ministry of Forests Friday (June 23). While recent rains have provided some relief in some regions, they have been insufficient.

“The increased flows that are present in some streams and river systems are likely to be short-lived,” the bulletin reads.

B.C. rates drought conditions along a scale of 0 to 5 with 5 being the most severe. Much of B.C.’s northeastern corner consisting of the East Peace, Fort Nelson and Finlay areas appears deep red on a map issued by the provincial government with a drought rating of 4.

That means conditions are extremely dry and adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem values are likely. The condition also means the province may augment voluntary measures to limit water use with regulatory action.

Not surprisingly, the driest part of the province is also the area most impacted by fires.

Eighteen regions covering the most populated parts of the province including the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island as well as the Sunshine Coast, the Kootenays, and parts of the Cariboo are rated at 3.

It means that conditions are becoming severely dry. Potentially serious ecosystem or socio-economic impacts are possible in some circumstances. This means all unauthorized water use should be curtailed, and water suppliers are much more likely to impose restrictions. The province may also start collecting data in preparation for regulatory actions.

Thirteen regions, ironically including the Okanagan, are either at Level 2 or 0. None at 5, where adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystems almost certain.

The bulletin says that the province is working with communities in preparing for the summer.

RELATED: Donnie Creek Wildfire now the largest in B.C.’s history: Wildfire Service

“If conservation measures do not achieve sufficient results and drought conditions worsen, temporary protection orders under the Water Sustainability Act may be issued to water licensees to support drinking water for communities and avoid significant or irreversible harm to aquatic ecosystems,” it reads.

The bulletin adds that provincial staff are monitoring the situation and working to balance water use with environmental needs. But it also includes an appeal to personal responsibility.

“Everyone is responsible to do their part to conserve water and reduce the risk of negatively affecting the environment and other water users,” it reads. “Water suppliers and vendors are also asked to ensure that they have an adequate water supply until rainfall can improve conditions.”

People and businesses in affected areas should reduce water use wherever possible and observe all watering restrictions from their local or regional government, water utility provider or irrigation district.

“Water use to extinguish a fire, or contain and control the spread of a fire, is exempt from a provincial water licence or approval,” it reads. “However, anyone under an evacuation order due to wildfire must leave the area immediately.”

Homeowners are urged to limit outdoor watering, including lawns and reduce personal water use by taking shorter among other tips.

Farmers are urged to improve the efficiency and timing of their irrigation systems while industry users are asked to reduce non-essential water use and recycle water used in industrial operations among other tips.


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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