British Columbia

Level 4 drought hits southeastern Vancouver Island

Summer is just one week old, but already southeastern Vancouver Island has hit the driest drought levels set by the province.

Drought conditions have also triggered the closure of many waterways for freshwater fishing

Ladysmith's Transfer Beach is one great place to beat the heat on Vancouver Island this summer. (Madeline Green/CBC)

Summer is just one week old, but already southeastern Vancouver Island has hit the driest drought levels set by the province.

On Tuesday morning, the Forests Ministry declared a Level 4 drought all the way from Victoria, Sooke and Port Renfrew north to Campbell River.

Provincial water stewardship manager Valerie Cameron says this is the earliest the region has been moved to Level 4 since the current system was created in 2010, and  it would take a large amount of rain to change the situation.

"We have dry soil. We have dropping ground water levels and we have dropping stream levels, so it would be a significant precipitation event of the sort we normally get in the fall to turn things around."

Level 4 is the driest of the province's ratings and normally triggers municipalities to enact their own water restrictions, such as bans on watering lawns and washing cars.

Limited rainfall and high temperatures are being blamed for the drought conditions.

The Level 4 drought alert for southeastern Vancouver Island comes five days earlier than last year. (B.C. Government)

Fishing areas closed

The low water levels mean the freshwater sports fishery will also be closed on most southern Vancouver Island rivers and streams, beginning July 1, except the Big Qualicum, Quinsam and Puntledge rivers.

"The closures are deemed necessary because increased temperatures and reduced flows can have impacts on survivals and stress levels on fish," said Mike Ramsey, fisheries manager for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Fisheries biologists have determined conservation is triggered for streams and watersheds where temperatures exceed 20 C and river flow drops below five per cent, Ramsey said Tuesday

All water users are being urged to reduce consumption as much as possible.

A Level 3 rating covers the west coast of the Island and areas north of Campbell River.

With files from the Canadian Press

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