Drought conditions have been upgraded in much of British Columbia, with the majority of the province at Drought Level 4 and Drought Level 5.
The latest provincial drought level update, from Aug. 3, puts Vancouver Island and much of northern British Columbia at Drought Level 5, the most severe of the province’s six drought levels.
Drought Level 0 has no adverse impacts, while under Drought Level 5, adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem values are almost certain, and emergency response measures may be needed.
The Okanagan and Similkameen valleys and the Kootenay-Boundary region are in Drought Level 4, except for the North and South Thompson basins, which are in Drought Level 5.
Conditions in the Okanagan and Similkameen have worsened since late July, when most of the region was at Drought Level 3.
In its latest Okanagan Drought Bulletin, issued Aug. 4, the Okanagan Basin Water Board stated it is working with water licensees to ensure they reduce their water use during this drought.
The ongoing drought is having an effect on agriculture, and the province is working to provide hay for farmers and ranchers who need it immediately.
In addition, the provincial and federal governments are providing $4 million to help farmers and ranchers in the province become more resilient and adapt to climate change.
The drought is also affecting fish populations and firefighting efforts.
“Everyone must use water efficiently and conserve what they can, ensuring enough for food production, fish spawning, ecosystem health, and firefighting,” the water board’s release stated.
However, local water restrictions for various communities may differ from the provincial drought levels. A community’s water restriction levels depend on factors including customer demand, infrastructure capacity and local water supply conditions, a statement from the Okanagan Basin Water Board read.
As drought conditions have been worsening, British Columbia is also experiencing its worst wildfire season on record.
As of Aug. 4, a total of 1,597 wildfires had been recorded, with around 1.56 million hectares burned. While the majority of the damage is in the Prince George Fire Centre area, all parts of the province have experienced wildfire damage, including fires close to urban areas.
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