British Columbia

Southern regions of B.C. face worsening drought as another heat wave strikes

Recent rain on B.C.’s South Coast has not alleviated the region’s worsening drought conditions, according to the provincial forest ministry.

Most of the South Coast is at the 2nd worst drought level, according to the province

Most of southern B.C. is now facing drought conditions, with this week's heat wave expected to exacerbate the lack of rain. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Recent rain on B.C.'s South Coast has not alleviated the region's worsening drought conditions, according to the provincial forest ministry.

Most of the central and southern parts of the province are now facing drought after multiple weeks without consistent rainfall, leading to lower groundwater levels and warmer river temperatures.

Though the South Coast had a temporary reprieve with scattered showers over the weekend, another punishing heat wave this week is expected to make the conditions worse.

The weeks of drought have led the Sunshine Coast Regional District to issue a ban on all outdoor use of drinking water, including for irrigation or gardening in the areas served by the Chapman and Eastbourne water basins.

"The water supply to the customers on the Chapman water system is not guaranteed if the current dry weather continues into the fall," said Remko Rosenboom, general manager of infrastructure services at the regional district.

Rosenboom said only six millimetres of rain fell on the watershed on Saturday and Sunday, which did not replenish the water supply that has seen high community demand.

Chapman Lake on the Sunshine Coast is pictured here on July 28, one month after the province's record-shattering heat dome caused a spike in water usage. (Sunshine Coast Regional District)

Large parts of the South Coast at 2nd-worst drought level

Though the Sunshine Coast has started to enforce strict water conservation regulations, it is not the hardest hit region in the province when it comes to drought.

The Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, and the Lower Columbia water basins are now at drought Level 4 as of last week.

"British Columbia ranks drought levels from 0 to 5. Drought Level 5 is the most severe, with adverse impacts to socioeconomic or ecosystem values almost certain," said the province in a press release.

The only watershed at drought Level 5 is the Kettle basin in the Kootenay region, with the entire Okanagan valley and Cariboo region under Level 3.

The province is urging residents to voluntarily reduce their water usage, and said regulatory action might be taken soon if conservation measures are insufficient.

Chapman Lake is pictured here on August 11, the day after the regional district announced outdoor tap water bans. (Sunshine Coast Regional District)

Increased stress to fish

Ten other watershed basins in the province are at either drought Level 2 or drought Level 1, with only some parts of northern B.C. seeing consistent rain in the last few weeks.

"Many freshwater angling closures are in place throughout B.C. due to increased stress to fish from low flows and high water temperatures," says the press release.

Marilyn Towill, general manager of water services with Metro Vancouver, said the lengthy dry spell and series of heat waves has led to an increase in water usage in the region.

"We are seeing a really higher than normal use of the drinking water supply that we have, so it's something that we're paying close attention to," she said.

"We really want to make sure that we get the message out to people to use a little less drinking water if they can, because we do have a finite supply now."

During the province's record-breaking heat wave in June, Metro Vancouver has said that water use in the region was nearly at record levels.

The province and regions are asking residents to conserve water by abiding by local bylaws and limiting outdoor watering, as well as by taking shorter showers and not leaving taps running.

With files from Émilie Warren