The Government of British Columbia has announced a Level 4 drought rating for the Coldwater River watershed and a Level 3 drought rating for the Salmon River watershed.
The Province is urging all water users, including residents, industry, farmers and municipalities, to reduce water consumption as much as possible.
The Province has set the Coldwater watershed at Drought Level 4 because conditions are extremely dry and flows have dropped to critical flow thresholds for fish populations, including juvenile steelhead, coho and chinook salmon, which are currently in the river system. With continued warm, dry weather in the forecast, river flows are expected to continue to drop. In order to protect fish populations, the Province is asking for maximum voluntary reduction of withdrawals in the Coldwater watershed.
The establishment of a Level 4 drought rating signals that regional water managers may take additional regulatory actions if they are deemed necessary. Under the Water Sustainability Act, a section 88, Fish Population Protection Order may be issued and specific actions could include the temporary suspension of water licences or short-term water approvals in affected watersheds, if necessary. Any such actions will be site-specific and depend on stream conditions.
In the Salmon River watershed, dropping water levels have prompted the announcement of a Level 3 drought rating and a call for voluntary water use reductions of 30% from all water users, including groundwater users. Low water levels in the Salmon River are of particular concern because adult chinook salmon have recently migrated into the river in preparation for spawning. Spawning chinook will be in the river through the month of September.
Water users in both systems are also 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. 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 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 by drought management plans and water conservation programs already in place.
Water conservation tips:
- 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.
- 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.
- Reduce non-essential water use.
- Recycle water used in industrial operations.
- Use water-efficient methods and equipment.
2017 B.C. Drought Information Portal: http://arcg.is/1W9SMZv
Coldwater River flow data (Brookmere): http://bcrfc.env.gov.bc.ca/lowflow/graphs/08lg048.htm
Salmon River flow data (Salmon Arm): http://bcrfc.env.gov.bc.ca/lowflow/graphs/08le021.htm