Level 4 drought hits southeastern Vancouver Island
Drought conditions have also triggered the closure of many waterways for freshwater fishing
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.
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