To protect coho, chinook and steelhead populations in the Coldwater River, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson has issued temporary water use restrictions on the river and its tributaries effective midnight Friday, July 31, 2015.
Due to continuing dry conditions, stream flows in this area are extremely low and chinook populations are expected to begin spawning soon. The order for water use reduction is necessary to improve the situation for spawning chinook, or juvenile salmon as well as improve the survival rate of other fish in the system. The order affects 50 water licences used for irrigation.
Effective from midnight July 31, 2015, until midnight Aug. 11, 2015, diversion and use of water from the Coldwater or its tributaries is restricted to between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. only. Effective midnight Aug. 11, 2015, all diversion and use of water must cease until Sept. 30, 2015.
Under the conditions of the order, if the reduced irrigation use has the desired effect and the seven-day average flow increases to the minimum required to protect juvenile fish (480 litres per second), the regional water manager may allow water diversion to continue on the restricted time between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
These measures strike a balance between providing water during a critical time for agricultural producers, while still taking the action necessary to protect fish populations. They also allow the modified response of nighttime watering to be extended if minimum thresholds to protect fish are met.
Section 9 of the Fish Protection Act allows for ministerial orders to temporarily regulate water users, regardless of the terms of their water licence under the Water Act, provided the following conditions are met:
- Water levels are low due to drought.
- The survival of fish populations is or may be threatened due to low water levels.
- Due consideration has been given to the needs of agricultural users.
Before issuing the current order, the ministry requested water licensees in the area to undertake voluntary water conservation measures, and informed them that regulatory action may be required if these actions failed to mitigate the threat to fish populations. Most water licensees within the watershed support this approach and have been implementing voluntary water conservation measures such as stopping irrigation and reducing irrigation volumes.
Given unprecedented levels of drought this summer, ministry staff continue to monitor water levels and streamflows around the province.
- This is only the second time Section 9 of the Fish Protection Act has been used since its inception in 2009.
- The Nicola Region was designated Drought Level 4, “extremely dry” on July 21, 2015.
- On July 22, 2015, all angling was suspended on the Nicola, Coldwater and Spius rivers.
B.C. Drought Information: http://www.livingwatersmart.ca/drought/
What Can You Do?: http://www.livingwatersmart.ca/drought/action.html
Agriculture Drought Strategies: http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/emergency/Drought/Drought.htm
Irrigation scheduling techniques and water conservation: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/business/natural-resource-industries/agriculture/agriculture-documents/resource-management/factsheets-and-publications/500-series/577100-1_irrigation_scheduling_techniques.pdf
For assistance in developing an irrigation schedule: http://ag-calc.irrigationbc.com/