The drought level has been elevated to “very dry” (Level 2) for the Okanagan watershed, according to a drought bulletin released by the Okanagan Basin Water Board.
Lingering effects from the late 2022 drought, an early freshet, warm and dry spring conditions and declining streamflows have prompted the province to issue the Level 2 drought rating.
The OBWB drought bulletin indicates while recent cooler conditions and localized rain. have brought some reprieve, drought conditions will persist unless the region has prolonged rain.
Many streamflows have reached the lower end of the historic range, while water temperatures are also increasing which can be lethal for fish.
“Water purveyors with upstream storage should closely follow their release schedule requirements to avoid low flows downstream,” says the bulletin.
Corinne Jackson, communications director for OBWB, says the Level 2 drought rating is meant to send a message to the public to conserve water and be prepared for drought conditions to worsen without any precipitation relief.
Jackson advises local residents to refer to the suggestions outlined at the website makewaterwork.ca on how to reduce water use on their properties.
“We’re not saying not to water your lawn, as a green lawn is better than a brown lawn or synthetic turf because it absorbs carbon and gives off oxygen, but even better is to xeriscape or transition your turf, overseeding with drought tolerant grass, clover. Or plant thyme. Not only will this require less water it will create even greater benefits, including for pollinators,” Jackson said.
In B.C., a six-level drought classification is used to communicate the severity and appropriate level of response to drought conditions, ranging from 0 where there is no impact to Level 5 in which adverse impacts to socio-economic and ecosystem values are almost certain.
At Level 2, water conservation is urged and local water restrictions be adhered to where appropriate.