Cam Fortems – Kamloops This Week
Interior ranchers and farmers have an eye on the sky looking for rain as continued drought conditions threaten to bring tougher conservation measures.
“It’s the lowest I’ve seen in the 15 years I’ve been farming here,” farmer and Thompson-Nicola Regional District director Steve Rice said of the Nicola River near Spences Bridge.
Rice said he can walk across the river noting the flow barely covers the intake for his farm irrigation.
“It’s scary,” he said.
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) has declared a Level 4 drought, the highest, in parts of the Nicola Valley and in the Spences Bridge and Fraser Canyon areas.
At Chase Creek, agricultural users are on an odd-even day system, similar to that used in municipalities, including Kamloops and Clearwater.
“We’re saving up to 50 per cent of the water,” said Peter Murray, who operates a corn farm west of Chase and is a trustee on the Chase Irrigation District. “We’re not short yet.”
Most of B.C. is amid Level 3 or 4 drought conditions, with river levels and temperatures typically seen in late August.
While ranchers are largely coping so far, Kevin Boon, general manager of B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, said the drought will likely curb any growth in the provincial herd. While cattle prices are again reaching new highs, lack of range and feed make expansion difficult.
Rangeland grasses are stressed from lack of moisture and, particularly, sustained high temperatures.
Prices for hay, meanwhile, have doubled due to dry conditions in Alberta. There is also the spectre some ranches may have their water licences restricted if hot, dry weather continues.
Despite low water conditions, the TNRD hasn’t yet placed special restrictions on residential systems it oversees.