Drought is a recurrent feature of climate involving a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time, resulting in a water shortage.
In British Columbia, drought may be caused by combinations of insufficient snow accumulation, hot and dry weather, or a delay in rainfall.
The Provincial Technical Drought Working Group provides drought level updates for each major watershed in the province as conditions warrant.
Effects of Drought
Drought conditions can affect communities and individuals in many different ways. Drought can lead to reduced water availability for household and business use. Lower streamflows may cause warmer river temperatures, affecting fish and other aquatic life. Low streamflows can also have an impact on groundwater levels.
Drought can reduce crop growth and quality, leading to smaller harvests. Hotter temperatures that often occur alongside drought may lead to early crop maturity or ripening. Less water may be available for irrigation and for animal care, and livestock production suffers and pests increase.
The Ministry of Agriculture provides advice and drought management tools to farmers and ranchers who may be affected by drought and/or loss of water.
Water Management During Drought
The B.C. Government has collaborated with Agri-Food Canada to complete the British Columbia Drought Response Plan. The plan focuses on the actions taken before, during and immediately after a drought to reduce the impacts of drought. The plan is coordinated by Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO).
The plan identifies a variety of actions and accountabilities, including:
- Responsibilities of provincial and local agencies
- Recommended actions to take before the onset of drought, during the drought, and after drought conditions have subsided
- Drought response criteria to help decide when to elevate drought responses to higher levels
Water Rights During Water Scarcity, Including Drought
Water users, whether licensed or not, are required to use water as efficiently as practicable. When voluntary conservation measures are not sufficient to meet all water rights, or to protect critical environmental flows or the survival of a fish population, the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) provides authority for statutory officials, under specified conditions, to regulate water diversion, use (and storage) by users of both stream water and groundwater. When this regulatory action is required, it can now involve groundwater users even if they do not have an authorization.
Water conservation is everyone's responsibility, especially during drought. You can save money by conserving water, and help to protect our natural resources.
Check out the BC Adapts: Water Conservation videos:
- Water Conservation 1: Why?
- Water Conservation 2: Water Conservation Outdoors
- Water Conservation 3: Rainwater Harvesting
- Water Conservation 4: Water Treatment & Reuse
The full playlist is available at BC Adapts: Water Conservation Videos.
Drought Level Classification
In B.C. we use a four level drought classification to explain the severity and appropriate level of response to drought conditions.The B.C. government’s ability to regulate water during drought is not dependent on an area’s drought level. Authorities can use the Water Sustainability Act, independent of an area’s drought level, to deal with conflicts and concerns in a single water source or with significant water shortages in a specific area.
|Normal Conditions||There is sufficient water to meet human and ecosystem needs||Preparedness||Ongoing reductions in community water use|
|Dry Conditions||First indications of a potential water supply problem||Voluntary conservation||Minimum 10% reduction|
|Very Dry Conditions||Potentially serious ecosystem or socio-economic impacts are possible||Voluntary conservation and restrictions||Minimum additional 20% reduction to a minimum of total of 30%|
|Extremely Dry Conditions||Water supply insufficient to meet socio-economic and ecosystem needs||Voluntary conservation, restrictions and regulatory action as necessary||Maximum reduction|
|Loss of Supply||Potential loss of a community's potable or fire fighting supply||Emergency response||Ensure health and safety|