The provincial drought level for the area around Houston (Skeena-Nass region) remained at level four (extremely dry) last week, according to the B.C. River Forecast Centre.
Although flows on the Bulkley River at Quick Station are normally in the 90-100 cubic metres per second range at this time of year, flows over the past week have been in the 30-40 range. According to David Campbell with the B.C. River Forecast Centre, this is a record low for this location at this time of year.
And while the normal water level for the Bulkley River at Quick Station is 0.57 metres at this time of year, on Oct. 17 the station registered 0.17 metres. The previous lowest level at the station was 0.41 metres.
But the Skeena-Nass region is not the only part of the province experiencing drought. Despite recent rainfall, streamflows in the central and northern regions of British Columbia have been well below normal.
Earlier this month the Upper Fraser East, Nechako and Peace regions were elevated from drought level two (dry) to drought level three (very dry). The Northwest, Upper Fraser West, Middle Fraser and the Central Coast regions were at level three, and the Stikine region was at level four.
According to the provincial government, if freeze-up in these regions occurs before streams, soil moisture and groundwater levels recharge, there is a risk of drought continuing into next year.
While cooler weather in these regions has improved stream temperatures and reduced stress on fish populations, continued very low streamflows can cause fish stranding and inhibit fall spawning species, including salmon and bull trout, from reaching spawning locations.
Drought conditions call for voluntary water-use reductions from surface-water and groundwater users, including municipal, agricultural and industrial users.
However, if voluntary reductions of water use are not sufficient to maintain flows above critical levels, the province may consider regulating water usage under the Water Sustainability Act. Specific actions could include the temporary suspension of water licences or short-term water approvals to restore flows to minimum critical levels in the affected streams.
Water conservation tips
– Observe local watering restrictions where applicable;
– Limit outdoor watering;
– Ensure irrigation and plumbing systems are well maintained and check for leaks;
– Use water-efficient appliances and plumbing fixtures;
– Take shorter showers; and
– Do not leave the tap running (e.g. while brushing teeth).
– With files from Chris Gareau