With the hot summer months ahead of us, drought in the Fraser Valley is a serious concern. It is imperative that we start to conserve water immediately. Most importantly, drought is a recurrent feature of climate change. Water shortages are bound to result from a deficiency of precipitation during the summer.

The Provincial Technical Drought Working Group provides drought level updates for each major watershed in the province as conditions warrant.

 Drought Management at Home

Drought can lead to reduced water availability for households and farms. Have you ever wondered why your plants are drying out so fast these days? It’s the carbon in the air from pollution.  Carbon takes the moisture out of the air so we need to water our plants more often. If you ever wondered why, it’s good to know.

It can be very difficult to protect plants when you are restricted in your water usage. A few ideas to help: Try a rain barrel or recycling your veggie water from cooking. Then use it when changing your pet or livestock water. Don’t just throw it down the sink. A plant near-by may need a drink.

Getting rid of pests can be as easy as using water and a spray bottle. Use the soapy, dirty dishwater to spray for aphids etc. It works like a charm! A few little tips to help recycle our most precious resource.

Effects of Drought on Farms

Warmer river temperatures caused by lower stream flows affect fish and other aquatic life. As a result, low stream flows have an impact on groundwater levels.

Drought not only reduces crop quality but also leads to smaller harvests. Hence, hotter temperatures will result in earlier crop maturity and ripening. Less water could be available for irrigation and animal care. Livestock production suffers and the number of pests increase.

Water Management

The Ministry of Agriculture provides advice and drought management tools to farmers and ranchers who may be affected by drought and/or loss of water. Water Conservation Tips brochure (PDF)

B.C. Government has collaborated with Agri-Food Canada to complete the British Columbia Drought Response Plan. This focuses on the actions taken before, during and after a drought to reduce the impact. To clarify, plans are coordinated by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRO).

Water Conservation

Water users, whether licensed or not, are required to use water as efficiently as possible. Conservation of water is everyone’s responsibility, especially during drought. Further, you can save money by conserving water, while helping to protect our natural resources.

Drought Level Classification

Industry, agriculture and residential users across the South Coast are being asked to cut back consumption by 30 per cent.  They are attempting to maintain adequate levels in streams and tributaries and protect fish. Read the British Columbia Drought Response Plan (PDF)

Rural residents who draw from wells and aquifers, including industry and agricultural users outside of city limits, fall under provincial jurisdiction. For now, the request to reduce usage is voluntary.

Municipalities in B.C. enforce their own water restriction bylaws. But, they often work in concert with the province. For example, they hold provincial water licenses that allow them to draw a specific volume of water for municipal use.

The province blames the drought conditions on the hot, dry weather. Hot weather has defined the summer for much of the southern part of the province. Lack of precipitation has had a significant impact on small streams. Those streams are essential to salmon and other fish, but they also feed major rivers.

The Fraser River Panel measured the river at approximately 20 per cent lower than average for this time of year. Consequently, the Fraser River remains closed to salmon fishing. Sockeye returns have been extremely low, according to counts by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Level four: irreversible ecological impacts

The provincial ministry said it is closely monitoring the conditions of streams. It may upgrade the drought level “if the weather continues to have a negative effect on stream flows and water supplies.”

In 2015, B.C. experienced extreme drought. The Lower Fraser region was classified at level three or four drought conditions from June to September. As a result, by the end of the summer, some municipalities faced dangerously low reservoir levels.

Finally, we can all contribute to preserving our water supply. Be part of the solution by helping to prevent extreme drought and the destruction of our rivers and small streams.