Despite a rainy start to October, lower-than-normal streamflows are causing the B.C. government to increase drought restrictions in northern parts of the province.
The Upper Fraser East, Nechako and Peace regions are being elevated from drought Level 2 to drought Level 3, which is classified as very dry, according to a statement from the province Tuesday.
The Northwest, Upper Fraser West, Middle Fraser and the Central Coast regions are all currently at drought Level 3. The Stikine and Skeena-Nass regions remain at drought Level 4, which is classified as extremely dry conditions.
Level 3 drought conditions call for voluntary water-use reductions from surface-water and groundwater users, including municipal, agricultural and industrial users. 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.
If freeze-up in these regions occurs before streams, soil moisture and groundwater levels recharge, there is a risk of drought continuing into next year, the province said.
While cooler weather in these regions has improved stream temperatures and reduced stress on fish populations, very low streamflows can cause fish stranding. Conditions could hinder salmon and bull trout from reaching spawning locations.
Water users on all streams are reminded to ensure that water intakes are screened to Fisheries and Oceans Canada standards to prevent fish from being pulled into water systems as water levels drop.