PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – The provincial government says that extremely warm and dry conditions have prompted officials to set a Level 3 drought rating for the Peace, Upper Fraser East and Upper Fraser West areas.
Level 3 drought conditions call for voluntary water-use reductions from all surface-water and groundwater users, including municipal, agricultural and industrial users.
The area included in the drought rating includes nearly all of Northern B.C., with the exception of the East Peace Basin that includes Fort St. John, Taylor, Hudson’s Hope, and Dawson Creek.
Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge, Mackenzie, and Fort Nelson are, however, included in the Level 3 drought area.
Many areas in the North are experiencing wildfires, and the government said that residents should be aware that despite recommendations to conserve water it is not an offence to divert or store and use water from a stream or aquifer to extinguish a fire under the Water Sustainability Act.
Stream levels across much of the North have dropped rapidly due to the recent dry weather.
While some of the larger rivers still display normal streamflows, their tributaries have dropped to levels of concern for fish and ecosystems.
Larger systems, such as the Nechako, are not currently affected by the dry conditions, but they may be impacted if dry conditions prevail. Currently, there are no angling closures, however, staff are monitoring conditions and will assess whether closures will be necessary.
If voluntary reductions of water use are not sufficient 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 affected streams.