As drought and water scarcity continues to rise for most of the southern half of British Columbia, the B.C. government is reminding everyone to conserve. Homeowners are asked to limit outdoor watering. Do not water during the heat of the day or when it is windy.

The North and South Thompson basins, as well as the Salmon River, Coldwater River and Nicola River watersheds in the Thompson Okanagan region were placed on Drought Level 4 as of August 4. Regions under Drought Level 3 include the entire Okanagan Valley and Similkameen. Of note, several local streams in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Cariboo/Chilcotin areas are experiencing greater impacts.

UPDATE Aug 12: Effective immediately, recreational fishing has been closed in most areas of the South Okanagan until until Sept. 15, 2021. This applies to all streams in the regions around Christina Lake, Grand Forks, Osoyoos, Oliver, Penticton, Keremeos, Princeton, Summerland, Peachland, Kelowna, Vernon and Cherryville. Low water conditions combined with higher than normal water temperatures are creating difficult conditions for fish, particularly those released after being caught, such as bull trout.

Water temperature is highly correlated to ambient air temperature; many water bodies are currently recording water temperatures of 25-30 C. Temperatures in this range are stressful for fish and any released after being caught will have difficulty recovering. Anglers are encouraged to report fish kills to their local Fish and Wildlife office or RAPP line (1 877 952-7277).

Voluntary reduction of water usage, from surface and groundwater in southern B.C., is encouraged. Voluntary water reduction already implemented in some areas has helped slow down the intensification of drought conditions and the need for regulatory action.

All water users in affected areas need to reduce their water use wherever possible and observe all watering restrictions from their local/regional government, water utility provider or irrigation district.

If conservation measures do not achieve sufficient results and drought conditions worsen, regulatory action may be taken under the Water Sustainability Act. This includes temporary protection orders issued to water licensees to avoid significant or irreversible harm to aquatic ecosystems. Provincial staff are actively monitoring the situation and working to balance water uses with environmental flow needs.