WATCH: The province has elevated the drought rating for east Vancouver Island to Level 4, the highest level.
The province has elevated the drought rating for east Vancouver Island to Level 4, the highest level, and is advising people to cut water usage.
Officials say stream levels are dropping, and aquifers and wells are running dry.
The Koksilah, Chemainus and Cowichan Rivers are all approaching historic low levels, while the San Juan River has already hit a record 60-year minimum.
Experts say it could put fish ecosystems at risk so people are being urged to cut back on water usage.
“Regardless of where you are, at this time of year, we’re urging water conservation for everybody because the more water we can conserve right now, the longer those water supplies can be spread out until the fall rains come and recharge our reservoirs and our streams,” said Valerie Cameron, the province’s water stewardship manager.
Cameron says the province is monitoring the situation and could temporarily suspend water rights for some users if conditions worsen.
“We haven’t gotten to that point yet, we don’t want to get to that point. We would far prefer voluntary water conservation to do the trick, but if it doesn’t work, we are preparing to regulate water usage if we need to,” she said.
Agriculture, the biggest user of water on Vancouver Island, would be affected by such restrictions.
Dairy farmer Fred van Huizen says they would impact his operations.
“I’d have to probably buy some more feed, that would increase the cost of my business. And I would imagine, if quite a few people had [to do] that, then it would impact the price at the stores, too,” he said.
Right now, east Vancouver Island (which includes Victoria) is the only area in a Level 4 drought, but Cameron says other areas are likely to be eventually affected as well.
Under the province, a Level 4 means extremely dry conditions. This means the water supply is insufficient to meet socio-economic and ecosystem needs. Restrictions and regulatory action from the province is implemented if necessary, but they do request voluntary conservation actions.