The continued unprecedented dry and hot conditions in British Columbia’s southern Interior has prompted government to increase the drought level in the Okanagan to 4.
At drought level 4, licence holders who do not get their water from local water utilities are being asked to reduce water use by half. Water licence holders who get their water directly from one of the large lakes, or the Okanagan river channel are also being asked to conserve water.
General voluntary reduction of water usage, from surface and ground water in southern B.C., is encouraged as the summer continues. In areas where voluntary water reduction has already been implemented, it has helped to slow down the intensification of drought conditions and the need for regulatory action.
Conditions between watersheds across the Okanagan Basin vary, which explains why neighbouring jurisdictions might require different restrictions. Co-ordination between the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) and the Province is ongoing.
All water users in affected areas need to reduce their water use wherever possible and observe all watering restrictions from their local/regional government, water utility provider or irrigation district.
If conservation measures do not achieve sufficient results and drought conditions worsen, regulatory action may be taken under the Water Sustainability Act, such as temporary protection orders issued to water licensees, to avoid significant or irreversible harm to aquatic ecosystems. Provincial staff are monitoring the situation and working to balance water uses with environmental flow needs.
British Columbia ranks drought levels from 0 to 5, Drought Level 5 being the most severe with adverse impacts to socioeconomic or ecosystem values being almost certain.
Many freshwater angling closures are in place throughout the region as well, due to increased stress to fish from low flows and high water temperatures. Anglers are encouraged to report fish kills to their local fish and wildlife office or RAPP line (1.877.952.7277) and refer to the online version of the Freshwater Fishing Regulation Synopsis for angler alerts and potential in-season fishery closures.
Note that water used to extinguish a fire or contain and control the spread of a fire remains exempt from a provincial water licence or approval. However, people under an evacuation order due to wildfire must leave the area immediately.
Drought portal (maps, tables): https://governmentofbc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=838d533d8062411c820eef50b08f7ebc
Okanagan Basin Water Board: https://www.obwb.ca/
Freshwater sportfishing regulations and angling closures: www.gov.bc.ca/fishingregulations