These regions – including Metro Vancouver, the Sea to Sky and Sunshine Coast areas, and the Fraser Valley and Canyon – are currently experiencing Level 3 drought conditions, which call for voluntary water use reductions of 20% or more from all municipal, agricultural and industrial users.
Staff with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations anticipate that these regions could experience significant water supply shortages in 2015. Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and Haida Gwaii are also experiencing Level 3 drought conditions.
Ministry staff are closely monitoring river levels and may upgrade the drought level if the weather continues to have a negative effect on stream flows and water supply. Currently, the only low streamflow advisory in effect is for Vancouver Island.
Although residential, agricultural and industrial users within municipalities and regional districts backed by reservoir storage are less vulnerable to water supply shortages than water users served by smaller water systems from streams, lakes and wells, all water users are encouraged to observe local water conservation bylaws to prolong water supplies.
Water users are also encouraged to ensure that water intakes are screened to prevent fish from being pulled into water systems as water levels drop. Low water levels can impede the passage of salmon to spawning grounds, increase susceptibility to disease, or cause stranding or death due to low oxygen and high water temperatures.
Groundwater measurements taken at provincial observation wells in these regions currently indicate normal seasonal levels. However, shallow wells connected to streams are likely vulnerable to going dry earlier than usual this year. Well owners are encouraged to conserve water by using less and relying on stored water.
Level 4 drought conditions, the highest rating, are determined by factors including regional stream flows, water storage capacity, ecological concerns, weather forecasts and impacts on water users. Should conditions reach Level 4, provincial water managers may exercise their authority to temporarily suspend short-term water permits or industrial water licences in affected watersheds.
Further reductions in stream, lake and aquifer levels could lead to water shortages and affect people, agriculture, industry and fish stocks. Ministry staff will continue to monitor conditions, work closely with local governments and key stakeholders, and provide updates as the need arises.
Water conservation is everyone’s responsibility. Many communities in B.C. are prepared to deal with water supply shortages and low streamflow conditions by drought management plans and water conservation programs that are 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 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 usage.
* Recycle water used in industrial operations.
* Utilize water-efficient methods and equipment.