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People urged to stay vigilant as B.C. drought remains severe

British Columbia uses a 0-5 scale to measure the severity of drought
Most of the province remains in severe drought. Photo: Unsplash

British Columbians are urged to be prepared and continue to follow all regional fire prohibitions and local water restrictions due to extreme wildfire risks and the ongoing drought.

Most of the province remains in a Drought Level 4 or Drought Level 5 classification (most severe).

People, businesses and governments are encouraged to continue water conservation efforts. Additionally, the wildfire danger rating for the southern part of the province remains high to extreme, with pockets of the northeast of B.C. sharing similar conditions.

Since April 1, 2023, there have been 1,454 wildfires that have burned more than 1.48 million hectares of land. There are 481 active wildfires, with more than half classified as out of control.

Nearly 600 out-of-province and international personnel are on the ground supporting wildfire suppression. This includes support from Mexico, Australia, Brazil and the United States, and the Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian Coast Guard.

Drought measures

British Columbia uses a 0-5 scale to measure the severity of drought in the province, with Drought Level 5 being the most severe. Of the 34 water basins throughout B.C., eight are in Drought Level 5 and 13 are categorized as Drought Level 4. Water basins classified as Drought Level 5 include Fort Nelson, South Peace, Bulkley-Lakes, Finlay, Parsnip, Upper Fraser West, West Vancouver Island and East Vancouver Island.

People and businesses are being urged to follow their local government or First Nation’s water restrictions and prioritize water conservation, as communities and the environment will be impacted in areas classified as Drought Level 4 to 5.

Drought is a recurring feature involving reduced precipitation, such as rain, during an extended period, resulting in a water shortage. Drought can affect people in different ways, resulting in agricultural, health, economic and environmental consequences.

In recent months, the province has supported communities in preparation for summer.

The province is asking local and regional governments to be diligent in monitoring their water-supply levels and to be proactive about enacting conservation measures. If conservation measures do not achieve sufficient results and drought conditions worsen, the province may issue temporary protection orders under the Water Sustainability Act to water licensees to support drinking water for communities and avoid significant or irreversible harm to aquatic ecosystems. Provincial staff are monitoring the situation and working to balance water use with environmental flow needs.

People and businesses should reduce water use wherever possible and observe all watering restrictions from their local or regional government, water utility provider or irrigation district.

Indoor water conservation tips:

* Reduce personal water use, such as taking shorter showers.

* If washing dishes by hand, fill the sink rather than letting the water run freely.

* Instead of running the tap, keep a jug of cool water in the fridge.

* Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth or shaving.

* Regularly check your home for leaks. Undetected leaks in your home can waste many litres of water each year.

* Run full loads of laundry and full loads in the dishwasher.

Outdoor water conservation tips:

* Water lawns sparingly, if at all.

* Water things, such as gardens, in the morning or evening to reduce evaporation.

* Clean the driveway with a broom instead of a hose.

* Check for leaks in outdoor pipes, faucets and hoses.

* Talk to a local nursery or garden supplies centre about drought-tolerant plants.

* Use rain barrels to collect rainwater for outdoor plant use.

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Sheri Regnier

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