Water conservation urged for Coldwater watershed as drought levels increase
A Level 4 drought rating is being implemented for the Coldwater River watershed in response to extremely low stream conditions.
All surface water and groundwater users, including residents, industry, farmers and municipalities, are being urged to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 50%.
With continued warm, dry weather in the forecast, stream flows are expected to continue to drop, reducing supply for water users and adding stress for fish.
The decision to elevate the Coldwater watershed to Drought Level 4 is due to conditions being extremely dry and stream flows approaching critical environmental flow thresholds for juvenile fish populations.
If voluntary reductions of water use are insufficient to maintain flows above critical levels, the ministry may consider regulating water usage under the Water Sustainability Act. Specific actions could include the temporary suspension of water licences or short-term water approvals to restore flows to minimum critical levels in the impacted streams. Ministry staff are in the process of contacting water users in the watershed to encourage water conservation and to advise of potential water regulation.
Water users on all streams are reminded to ensure that water intakes are screened to Fisheries and Oceans Canada standards to prevent fish being pulled into water systems as water levels drop. Low water levels can impede the passage of fish, increase their susceptibility to disease, or cause stranding or death due to low oxygen and increased water temperatures.
Local water conservation bylaws may differ from provincial water conservation targets due to local water supply and demand, and the availability of storage (lakes and reservoirs) or groundwater. Residential, agricultural and industrial water users, who are located within municipalities and regional districts, are encouraged to observe local water conservation bylaws where they exist.
Water conservation is everyone’s responsibility. Many communities in B.C. are prepared to deal with water supply shortages and low stream flow conditions, and have drought management plans and water conservation programs already in place.
Water conservation tips:
- Limit outdoor watering.
- Do not water during the heat of the day or when it’s windy.
- Consider planting drought-tolerant vegetation.
- Take shorter showers.
- Do not leave the tap running.
- Install water-efficient showerheads, taps and toilets.
On the farm:
- Implement an irrigation scheduling program using real-time weather data.
- Schedule irrigation to match crop needs and soil storage capacity.
- Improve water system efficiencies and check for leaks.
- Focus on high-value crops and livestock.
- Reduce non-essential water use.
- Recycle water used in industrial operations.
- Use water-efficient methods and equipment.
2019 B.C. Drought Information Portal:
Coldwater River flow data (in Merritt):
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