A lack of precipitation, low stream flows, high water temperatures that can be lethal to fish, and sustained warm weather have prompted the B.C. government to move the Okanagan to Drought Level 4 conditions (extremely dry where adverse impacts to socio-economic and ecosystem values are likely).
While water systems that are supported by upland storage reservoirs and mainstem lakes are doing okay, many important fish-bearing streams in the Okanagan are flowing well below normal and several are completely dry.
The forecast is for continued hot and dry weather this month, so it is unlikely that flows will improve without drastic conservation measures.
“The B.C. government is working with water licensees to ensure they reduce use, and is taking enforcement action where needed to protect the most sensitive areas,” said Corinne Jackson, Okanagan Basin Water Board communications director who, along with planning and policy director Kellie Garcia Bunting, authored drought bulletins on behalf of the OBWB.
“Water purveyors with upstream storage should closely follow their release schedule requirements to avoid low flows downstream. Flows in some streams can change rapidly during hot, dry conditions.”
People and businesses in affected areas should reduce water use wherever possible and observe all watering restrictions set by their water purveyor.
“We need to work together to make sure there is enough water for fish, agriculture, and fighting wildfires,” said Jackson, who added local water restrictions (stages) are set using different indicators than provincial drought levels and federal drought ratings. (Learn more at https://www.obwb.ca/drought-classification-systemsused-in-b.c./).
Whether a community moves to a higher restriction stage depends on several factors, including customer demand, infrastructure capacity, and local water supply conditions (e.g. reservoir storage), which can vary across the region.
As of July 27, most of B.C.’s water basins have been elevated to Extremely Dry (Level 4) or Exceptionally Dry (Level 5).
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