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Level 3 drought declared for Okanagan

Kelowna - It’s been a record-breaking summer for heat and little precipitation

The province has declared the Okanagan in Drought Level 3 with very dry conditions.

The implication is that a level three drought could have serious ecosystem or socioeconomic impacts, according to a province press release.

As such, the province has called for a voluntary 30 per cent reduction in water use for both surface and groundwater users.

Between June and August, Kelowna broke its record for least summer rainfall, with only 7.3 mm, according to the Okanagan Basin Water Board. Penticton and Vernon are poised to break their own records for summer dryness and Kelowna broke records for hottest July and August, said the OBWB in a press release.

This follows a record-breaking spring for most precipitation from March to May for Vernon (second highest ever recorded), Kelowna (fourth highest) and Penticton (ranked number one for precipitation), out of 100 years of records, said the OBWB.

This leaves relatively normal levels in mainstem lakes and upper-watershed reservoirs, but many important fish streams have low flows and warm waters that are harmful for fish. Some streams are completely dry, said the OBWB.

The province is asking licensees with upstream storage to follow the release schedule requirements in their licences to avoid potential instream flow issues.

All independent licensees on streams and all groundwater users who are on aquifers that may be connected to streams are encouraged to reduce withdrawals.