Environment Minister Barry Penner is reminding British Columbians to conserve water to protect water sources and help meet future water demands.
The cool, wet weather of May and June in much of southern B.C. helped lessen the impacts of the dry, hot July our province just experienced. Most water levels are generally average or just starting to decline to below average. However, in the northern half of the province conditions have remained consistently dry or very dry for the past three months. Many streams are at or near record low water levels. The Peace, Liard and Skeena regions are classified as Drought Level 3, indicating concern for fish and water supplies, unless significant rainfall occurs. Weather Synopsis:
Rainfall measured at most weather stations in July was between one-third and two-thirds of normal, but in some areas much lower. Particularly dry areas include Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, the Central Interior, and the Okanagan. Over the cumulative May-July period, Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan saw precipitation in the range of average to two-thirds of normal. The Skeena region recorded between one-quarter and two-thirds of normal precipitation in the past two months.
The Peace region recorded between less than half and one-third of normal precipitation in the past three months. In the Northeast, Fort Nelson recorded two-thirds the normal amount of precipitation from May to July. Streamflow Conditions:
In Northern B.C., river levels are well below normal. In the Peace region, most tributaries are near or at record minimum low flows for this time of year. In the far Northeast, the Liard River is at a 20-year return period low flow. On the North Coast, the Skeena River is at a 20-year return period low flow, and the Bulkley River is at a 20-year return period low flow.
Flows along the mainstem of the Fraser River, downstream of the confluence of the McGregor River, are at 10-year return period low flows. The McGregor River is at a 20-year return period low flow.
In the Central Interior, the Cariboo region is also dry with the Quesnel and Horsefly rivers between 10-20 year return period low flows. In contrast, streams in the Chilcotin region are generally between median and five-year return period low flows.
In the Thompson River area, water levels on most streams are between median and five-year return period low flows, with the exception of the North Thompson River, which is between a five-to-10 year return period low flow. Similar conditions are present in the Similkameen and Okanagan , where most streams are between median and five-year return period low flows. An exceptions is Vaseux Creek north of Oliver, which is at a 20- year return period low flow.
In the Kootenay and Columbia areas, streamflow conditions are generally slightly below normal for this time of year.
On Vancouver Island, most river levels are at or slightly below average. Exceptions are the Tsolum River, which is well below average, and Tofino Creek, which is slightly below average.
On the South Coast mainland, river levels are at or above average for this time of year.
Streamflow levels in all parts of B.C. are expected to recede during the summer months unless rainfall is above normal. Drought Level and Water Supply Conditions:
The Peace region is classified as Drought Level 3 (very dry conditions) and is expected to reach Drought Level 4 (extremely dry conditions) in the next two weeks, unless significant rainfall occurs. The Skeena and Nass region is expected to remain at Drought Level 3 throughout the summer unless above-normal rainfall occurs. Potential for serious effects on fish and aquatic organisms due to low stream flows, and water supply shortages (including groundwater aquifers) are highly probable. Water conservation is urged. Water restrictions at the local level should be considered where appropriate, and drought management plans should be reviewed and implemented.
The upper Fraser and middle Fraser River areas, as well as the mid-coastal areas, are expected to hold at Drought Level 2 (dry conditions) unless above-normal rainfall occurs. Voluntary conservation, as well as planning at the local level using tools such as drought management plans, should be considered.
All other areas of B.C. are now classified as Drought Level 1 or normal for this time of year.
For additional information on water supply and streamflow conditions, go to: http://bcrfc.env.gov.bc.ca/bulletins
For more information on drought conditions and the BC Drought Response Plan, go to: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wsd/public_safety/drought_info
Living Water Smart: B.C.'s Water Plan outlines the government's vision and plan to keep B.C.'s water healthy and secure for the future. For more information, go to: http://www.livingwatersmart.ca