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Water conservation urged as drought levels increase in southern British Columbia

Staff Writer | September 5, 2017
Responding to continuing warm and dry conditions, the Province has announced a Level 4 drought rating for the Similkameen, Nicola, and Salmon River watersheds, while a Level 3 drought rating has been set for the Okanagan watershed.
British Columbia drought
Canada   A Level 4 drought rating
The Province is urging all surface water and groundwater users, including residents, industry, farmers and municipalities, to voluntarily reduce water consumption. A Level 4 drought rating recommends maximum reduction of water use, while a Level 3 drought rating calls for reducing water use by 30%.

With continued warm, dry weather in the forecast, stream flows are expected to continue to drop, providing additional stress for fish as well as reducing water supplies for water users.

The Province has elevated the Similkameen, Nicola, and Salmon watersheds to Drought Level 4 because conditions are extremely dry and stream flows are approaching critical environmental low flow thresholds for fish populations, including Chinook salmon.

In the Okanagan watershed, while some streams and lakes have adequate flows, a number of streams are experiencing low flows that are that are impacting water users and fish, including returning adult salmon.

If voluntary reductions of water use are not sufficient to maintain flows above critical levels, the ministry may consider regulating water usage under the Water Sustainability Act.

Specific actions could include the temporary suspension of water licences or short-term water approvals to restore flows to minimum critical levels in the impacted streams.

Ministry staff are in the process of directly contacting water users in critical watersheds to encourage water conservation and to advise of potential water regulation.

In particular, water conservation is expected to benefit the Salmon River, where low flows are impacting migrating Chinook salmon.

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.


 

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