Drought information, resources and response for B.C.

Last updated on November 17, 2023

B.C. is taking action to reduce the frequency and impacts of droughts. Everyone has a part in water conservation.

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Last updated: November 17, 2023


What government is doing

Local water restrictions

In B.C., drought response is a shared responsibility with the Province, the federal government, water providers, regional districts, municipalities and First Nations. During these severe drought conditions, the Province is supporting local governments to conserve water.

Depending on their water sources, the situation can be very different in individual communities - even in communities that are relatively close. 

Check with your local municipal authority or First Nations for water restrictions in your community.

Temporary Protection Orders

The Province issues Temporary Protection Orders (TPOs) under the Water Sustainability Act. TPOs are only issued if absolutely necessary and water levels put the survival of a fish population or the environment at risk. 

Before issuing a TPO: 

  • Impacted water licensees receive a letter asking for voluntary water conservation 
  • The Province meets with local First Nations to discuss drought options
  • A public information meeting may be held 

If a TPO is not followed, regulatory action is taken, including significant fines. Natural Resource Officers monitor and enforce orders. 

Supporting farmers and ranchers

The Province is working with the agricultural community and the federal government to support B.C. producers. This includes proactively applying to the federal government for AgriRecovery funding. 

Supporting communities 

The Province is working directly with communities to respond to these challenges. In preparation for dry conditions, the Province developed a Drought and Water Scarcity Response Plan (PDF, 1.12 MB). Government is currently using this plan to develop resources and work with communities to respond to their local conditions.
 

Reducing water consumption

Government is working to save water for essential areas by:
  • Reducing water use in provincial government properties
  • Helping large industry increase water conservation
  • Encouraging voluntary conservation
  • Ensuring water licensees remain in compliance of the Water Sustainability Act

Water reimbursement program

A reimbursement program for First Nations and local governments for the transportation of alternate drinking water is available. If required, First Nations and local governments should contact their provincial regional emergency coordination centre.


What you can do 

Water conservation is everyone’s responsibility - including people, business and industry. You can help conserve water by making small changes to the way you do things. Review the water use in your household, around your property and at work for ways you can use less water.

Don't know where to start? Learn more about water conservation or get ideas for ways to save from the tips below.

Indoor water conservation tips

  • Take shorter showers 
  • Fill the sink instead of letting the water run when washing dishes
  • Keep a jug of cool water in the fridge instead of running the tap
  • Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth or shaving
  • Regularly check your home for leaks. Undetected leaks can waste many liters of water each year
  • Run full loads of laundry and full loads in the dishwasher

Outdoor water conservation tips

  • Lawn watering is currently not permitted in some areas – review and follow local water restrictions.
  • Collect and reuse water for outdoor plant use
  • If allowed, water sparingly in the morning or evening to reduce evaporation
  • Clean outside with a broom instead of a hose
  • Check for leaks in pipes, faucets, and hoses
  • Plant drought tolerant vegetation 
  • Use a water-saving pool filter

Business and industry water conservation tips

  • Follow local water restrictions and water-use rules from your local or regional government, water utility provider or irrigation district
  • Review essential water use
  • Reduce non-essential water use
  • Recycle water used in industrial operation
  • Use water-efficient methods and equipment
  • Check all plumbing for leaks
  • Maximize water system efficiencies

Share water conservation tips with your community by sharing these tips or posting an Every Drop Counts poster (PDF, 3.1 MB)

Water conservation incentives and rebates

Many communities offer water conversation rebates or incentives. These are in place to help people save money while reducing water use. The most common rebates or water saving incentives in B.C are available for:

  • Switching to a low-flush toilet or installing more efficient faucets and showerheads
  • Installing Energy Star-certified water-efficient washing machines and dish washers
  • Installing rain barrels or other methods for water collection
  • Improving irrigation, soil or landscaping to make property more water efficient

Check with your local municipal authority or First Nations to learn if they offer conservation incentives or rebates like these ones or the examples below.

Regional water conservation incentive and rebate programs

 

Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley

Abbotsford and Mission

​City of Chilliwack

Delta

  • Delta single-family homeowners can sign up for the Voluntary Water Meter Program that promotes a user-pay system, as opposed to a flat rate fee, which encourages conservation

City of Port Coquitlam

Maple Ridge

Richmond

 

Northern B.C.

Mackenzie

Prince George

  • Prince George residents can sign up for the Voluntary Residential Water Meter Program that allows residents to accurately track water use, conservate water and save money by only paying for what you use.
 

Thompson Okanagan

Kelowna

  • The City of Kelowna Smart Water Program offers rebates for people living in single-family dwellings and strata complexes for updating irrigated landscape areas on water use efficiency 

Peachland

  • The Peachland Green Credits Policy provides water consumption costs credits for irrigation water food producers with properties between one-half and two acres in size 
 

Vancouver Island and Sunshine Coast

Comox Valley Regional District

  • The Comox Valley Regional District Water Conservation Rebates are available for use water from the Comox Valley Water System more efficiently through irrigation or soil

Regional District of Nanaimo

  • The Regional District of Nanaimo Green Building Incentives offers rebates and incentives for irrigation upgrades, rainwater harvesting, wellhead upgrades, well water testing and septic upgrades 

Sunshine Coast Regional District

  • The Sunshine Coast Regional District Rainwater Harvesting Rebate Program offers rebates for installing rainwater storage systems to capture and use water for outdoor water use.

City of Victoria

Capital Regional District


Impact to fish, wildlife and nature

Droughts can severely impact fish, wildlife and natural habitats.

Angling limits to protect fish

Drought conditions can raise water temperatures and make it harder for released fish to recover. To protect fish populations from further stress, recreational fishing is being restricted in some areas.

Bears in urban areas

Due to the impacts of drought, bears may enter urban areas in search of food. Often, that new food source is garbage or birdfeeders. Discourage bears by cleaning up, storing, and securing your garbage. For more bear safety tips, visit WildSafeBC.com.

If you encounter a bear in an urban area, give it space. If a bear displays aggressive or confrontational behaviour, contact the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.

Urban trees

Trees near sidewalks and on public spaces or boulevards are important to the health of cities. They provide shade and cooling during extreme heat.

Communities are continuing to water urban trees. Consider helping by using recycled water to water a tree near your home or business. To report a tree in distress – one that has leaves that are light-coloured, small, or are hanging down unusually – please contact your local government or First Nations

 


Resources for individuals


Resources for communities

In the months leading up to this drought season, the Province has been working with local governments and First Nations to get prepared and become more resilient to drought.

Water infrastructure funding is supporting local governments through a variety of grant programs. 

Get support

For questions about governance during severe drought conditions, representatives of local governments should contact the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Local Government Division.

To discuss preparedness planning or to get help, communities should contact their local Emergency Management and Climate Readiness regional office.

Water Scarcity Response Plan

The Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness is assisting communities with their water scarcity response planning.

Dealing with drought

The Dealing with Drought handbook (PDF, 592KB) supports water suppliers responding to drought conditions.

Water conservation guides

Explore the Water Conservation Guide for B.C. to learn how your community can reach your water conservation goals.

B.C.’s tourism industry is supporting water conservation. The new water conservation tourism industry toolkit has tips to help resorts, restaurants, and other tourism industry partners conserve water.


Resources for agricultural producers 

Income protection programs

The B.C. government offers several programs to support farmers from crop losses and income declines.

AgriStability offers support when farmers suffer a decline in income due to things like crop losses, market conditions, or increased costs of production. Important changes were made to the AgriStability program to support farmers, ranchers, and producers through these drought conditions. Changes include:

  • Allowing late participation for farms and ranchers to enroll if they missed the deadline
  • Increasing interim payment limits from 50% to 75%, with advance payments made in as few as 10 business days
  • Higher grain and oilseed crop write-off levels will make more written-off crops available for livestock feed

Production insurance provides relief to insured growers for crop losses when they are damaged by weather conditions, including drought, extreme heat and fire.

Access to Feed program

To help farmers and producers get hay and feed, a new Access to Feed program is available. Delivered in partnership with the BC Cattlemen’s Association, this program matches sellers of hay and feed, across Canada and internationally, with farmers and producers.

For more information on the Access to Feed Program and other supports offered, please visit the BC Cattlemen’s Association.

AgriService BC

Industry experts are ready to help farmers, ranchers and producers who need support. Contact your local industry association or call the AgriService BC line Monday to Friday between 8:30 am - 4:30 pm

Call: 1-888-221-7141