Province Asking for 50% Reduction in Water Use

The Province has recently elevated the drought level in some areas of the Kootenay Boundary Region, effective Wednesday July 28. Updated regional drought levels and supporting information can be found on the BC Drought Information Portal. Once again, please be aware that the four level drought scale (1-4) most are familiar with has been replaced by a six level system (0-5). This six level scale and associated indicator thresholds have been revised in the retitled  “BC Drought and Water Scarcity Response Plan

September 1, 2021  – The current Kootenay Boundary Region, basin drought levels are as follows:

  • Upper Columbia- Level 2 – emphasis on stewardship and to prepare under the precautionary assumption that conditions may deteriorate again.
  • East Kootenay- Level 2- emphasis on stewardship and to prepare under the precautionary assumption that conditions may deteriorate again.
  • West Kootenay- Level 4- province requesting voluntary water use reductions of 50%. This includes both surface water and groundwater.
  • Lower Columbia- Level 4- province requesting voluntary water use reductions of 50%. This includes both surface water and groundwater.
  • Kettle- Level 5 province asking all water users to find ways to reduce water use as much as possible beyond previous 50% voluntary reductions.

All basins within the Kootenay Boundary Region have observed intensifying water scarcity and drought conditions over the past week. The severity is mainly due to significantly lower than normal streamflow in many areas combined with a continued substantial precipitation deficit and warmer than average temperatures. Other factors such as low provincial observation well levels, high water temperature and localized fish kills also contributed to setting the drought levels. Short and long term weather forecasts show continued heat and lack of precipitation, indicating that drought conditions will likely remain or intensify in the coming weeks.

Recommended actions to take are as follows:

  • Upper Columbia basin: Has decreased to a drought level 1. However, water conservation is encouraged and any unnecessary water use be ceased as conditions are becoming very dry and are forecasted to get worse. This includes both surface water and groundwater
  • East Kootenay basin: Has increased to a drought level 3 and we are now requesting voluntary water use reductions of 30%. This includes both surface water and groundwater.
  • West Kootenay, Lower Columbia and Kettle basins: Remain at Drought level 4 where we are requesting voluntary water use reductions of 50%. This includes both surface water and groundwater. 
  • The province is investigating unauthorized use of water in the region and will be targeting these withdrawals for curtailment to support the conservation efforts being made by licenced water users.

Despite this week’s precipitation, we continue to see concerningly low stream and aquifer levels across the southern half of the Kootenay Boundary Region. Drought effects have only been temporarily buffered in some areas and continue to degrade in others. Only until more continuous and intense rainfall with meaningful contributions to streamflow will we see drought levels decrease.

Should drought conditions persist this may lead to a recommendation of more significant and widespread voluntary reduction in water use. In severe cases and where voluntary reductions have not led to results, regulatory action may be required in order to protect fish and the aquatic ecosystem. Regulatory action may come by way of temporary protection orders under the Water Sustainability Act Sections 86, 87 or 88. Letters with this information have been mailed to individual water licence holders in areas affected by level 3 and level 4 conditions.

Additional information can  be found on the Provincial Drought Information webpage or call FrontCounter BC at 1-877-855-3222.

Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
1902 Theatre Road Cranbrook, BC V1C 7G1