With the weather expected to remain warm and dry, the provincial government has announced a Level 3 drought rating for the Kootenays and is urging us to reduce water consumption.
Level 3 drought conditions call for voluntary water-use reductions of an additional 20 per cent beyond Level 2 conservation levels (30 per cent overall) from all municipal, agricultural and industrial users.
In a prepared statement, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said it expects this region could experience significant water supply shortages.
Ministry staff are monitoring river levels and ecosystems, and may upgrade the drought level if the weather continues to have a negative effect on stream flows and water supply.
Although residential, agricultural and industrial users within municipalities and regional districts backed by reservoir storage are less vulnerable to water supply shortages than water users served by smaller water systems from streams, lakes and wells, all water users are encouraged to observe local water conservation bylaws to prolong water supplies.
Water users are also encouraged to ensure that water intakes are screened to prevent fish from being pulled into water systems as water levels drop. 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.
Level 4 drought conditions, the highest rating, are determined by factors including regional stream flows, water storage capacity, ecological concerns, weather forecasts and impacts on water users.
Should conditions reach Level 4, provincial water managers may exercise their authority to temporarily suspend short-term water permits or industrial water licences in affected watersheds.
Further reductions in stream, lake and aquifer levels could lead to water shortages and affect people, agriculture, industry and fish stocks.
Ministry staff will continue to monitor conditions, work closely with local governments and key stakeholders, and provide updates as the need arises.
Nelson is already on Stage 3 water conservation measures.