Water scarcity, drought conditions affecting Vancouver Island

Water scarcity, drought conditions affecting Vancouver Island
BC Government
A map of BC's current drought levels as of July 9 -- red marks level 4 while orange marks level 3.

The provincial government is cautioning residents of Vancouver Island, as well as other areas of southern British Columbia about drought-like conditions and water scarcity following the recent extreme heat wave.

According to the Province, water scarcity and low flows are affecting Vancouver Island, the entire Thompson-Nicola region, the Cariboo, Shuswap and Okanagan.

B.C. says that most of eastern Vancouver Island is rated at Drought Level 4, which means there is a likely possibility of adverse impacts from the dry conditions, including on the fish in the region. The government emphasizes that adverse impacts on fish have been observed, due to very high water temperatures combined with low flow conditions, dewatering of riffle habitats and disconnected side channels.

Areas along eastern Vancouver Island of particular concern for risk of additional impacts of water scarcity and drought include but are not limited to the following watersheds: Sandhill Creek, Koksilah River, Chemainus River, Millstone River, Tsolum River, Black Creek, Fulford Creek on Salt Spring Island, as well as the majority of the Gulf Islands.

Areas under Drought Level 3 include western Vancouver Island, the Middle Fraser Basin/ Cariboo region, the entire Okanagan Valley, the Nicola and Coldwater watersheds near Merritt, and the Kettle River watershed near Grand Forks. At this rating level, local adverse impacts to water users, fish or ecosystems are possible.

Western Vancouver Island spans from Cape Scott to Jordan River.

The Province adds that 14 other basins in B.C. are either under Drought Level 2 or Drought Level 1.

British Columbia ranks drought levels from 0 to 5, with Drought Level 5 rated as the most severe with adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem values being almost certain.

“Water conservation is everyone’s responsibility and is being urged for all areas affected by drought. Residential, agricultural and industrial water users in affected areas must observe all water conservation bylaws, watering restrictions and advice from their local government, irrigation district or water utility,” reads a statement from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

The government is urging that Vancouver Islanders — along with other B.C. residents that are living in affected areas — follow these water conservation tips:

  • Limit outdoor watering
  • Do not water during the heat of the day or when it is windy
  • Consider planting drought-tolerant vegetation
  • Take shorter showers
  • Do not leave taps running
  • Install water-efficient showerheads, taps and toilets

A map of B.C.’s current drought conditions can be found here.

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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