Level 4 drought in B.C. prompts water shortage concerns
Thursday, July 16, 2015, 11:34 AM - Extreme dry conditions have pushed British Columbia officials to raise the drought rating for the South Coast and Lower Fraser to the highest category - Level 4.
In an effort to conserve water, TransLink, the regional transportation network in Metro Vancouver, has suspended washing the exterior of its buses until further notice.
"Our bus wash system uses reclaimed water for the majority of the wash cycle, except the final rinse which uses fresh water," the TransLink media release read.
The company has vowed to only wash the exterior of buses for "exceptional circumstances." TransLink maintains more than 500 buses, the media release indicated, and this translates to 30,000 litres of water conserved each day.
The good news is that a upper trough developing in the Gulf of Alaska is expected to usher in cooler temperatures and bring much needed rain to southern B.C. by early next week. This could bring some relief to the wildfire situation, however, the risk remains elevated as toasty weather continues to dominate the short term forecast.
Further declines in stream, lake and aquifer levels could result in water shortages and affect people, agriculture and industry, said the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations in a news release.
"All water users are urged to maximize their water conservation efforts."
These extreme dry conditions in parts of B.C. and across the Prairies have contributed to a spike in wildfires, new steps towards water rationing and rising grain prices.
While it's too premature to say whether B.C. is headed for a California-style drought, the signs are there and Canadian officials have begun to adopt some of the drought management tactics employed by their U.S. counterparts.
A level 4 drought advisory means regional water managers could impose further water use restrictions.
"Any such actions will be site-specific depending on individual stream conditions," the news release notes. "Specific actions could include the temporary suspension of short-term water approvals or water licenses in affected watersheds if necessary."
British Columbia government fisheries biologists are monitoring about 60 key angling streams through the province as low water levels can impede the passage of salmon to spawning grounds, increase susceptibility to disease, or cause stranding or death due to low oxygen and high water temperatures.
Metro Vancouver remains under Stage 2 water restrictions, which limits lawn watering and other non-essential uses. Reservoirs are 73 per cent full, which is below the normal range for this time.
"To put this into perspective, if all of Vancouver stopped using their water for one month, we would match what that reservoir would typically be for the middle of August," said The Weather Network meteorologist Tyler Hamilton. "This trend will continue to follow below the lower-bound through summer, unless we get a big pattern shift."
One hour of lawn sprinkling alone uses as much water as 25 toilet flushes, five loads of laundry and five dishwasher loads combined, according to Metro Vancouver's water supply report. Many communities in B.C. are prepared to deal with water supply shortages through drought management plans and water conservation programs already in place.
Both the Lower Mainland and South Fraser drought ratings were raised to Level 3 on June 30.
Source: Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations | Metro Vancouver | The Weather Network