The B.C. government is barring nearly 50 water licence holders from diverting water from the Tsolum River on central Vancouver Island to protect fish who live in the area amid low stream flows and drought.
Starting Saturday, Aug. 19, approximately 45 surface and groundwater licence holders in the Tsolum River watershed must stop using water to irrigate forage crops – such as grass for hay, alfalfa and forage corn.
The province says some operators who use water for industrial purposes will also be barred from using water starting Saturday.
The order does not apply for water used for non-forage crops – such as market vegetables – as well as livestock watering and domestic use, according to the province.
“This order falls under the Water Sustainability Act’s purpose of avoiding significant or irreversible harm to aquatic ecosystems,” said the province in a release Friday.
“Provincial staff are monitoring the situation and working to balance water uses with environmental flow needs.”
The order remains in effect until Sept. 30, or until further notice from the province. The order may end sooner if water flows recover to seasonal norms.
Anyone affected by the water order will be contacted directly, according to the province.
Affected farmers can also follow up with the federal-provincial AgriStability program for support.
The order comes two days after the province issued a similar order for the Salmon River and Bessette Creek on the B.C. mainland to protect salmon.
Those orders affected about 400 surface and groundwater licence holders in the region.
All of British Columbia has been facing stiff drought conditions this summer, including the entirety of Vancouver Island, which is under drought level five conditions, the most severe on the province’s scale.