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Drought levels high in B.C. with little to no rainfall in last five weeks

The B.C. government says conditions are "extremely dry" in the Fort Nelson, Sunshine Coast, Lower Mainland, and Vancouver Island regions.

File photo. Many parts of B.C. are under a Level 4 Drought.
File photo. Many parts of B.C. are under a Level 4 Drought. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Many parts of B.C. are coping with high levels of drought and water scarcity following little to no rainfall over the past five weeks, the provincial government warned Thursday.

And, with a long stretch of dry weather in the forecast, conditions could become worse for parts of the West Coast, South Coast and Northeastern areas of B.C.

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The province ranks drought levels from zero to five and as of Thursday the Fort Nelson, Sunshine Coast, Lower Mainland, and the east and west Vancouver Island regions were all under a Drought Level 4.

At this level, conditions are “extremely dry and adverse effects to socio-economic or ecosystem values are likely,” the government said, in a statement.

Regions under Drought Level 3 include the eastern pacific range, Coldwater River, Kettle, and the South Peace, North Peace and East Peace regions. At this level, conditions are “becoming severely dry.”

Potentially serious ecosystem or socio-economic effects are possible in some circumstances, according to government.

All other watershed basins in B.C. are either under Drought Level 2 or Drought Level 1.

Residents under Drought Level 3 and Drought Level 4 are asked to reduce their water use whenever possible.

Derek Lee, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said they won’t know for sure until the end of the month but some areas, particularly Abbotsford, could hit a record for the driest September.

In Abbotsford, for example, the average rainfall for September is 75 millimetres but so far the area has only received 0.6 mm.

Vancouver usually has about 50 mm in September, but so far only 7 mm has fallen, while east Vancouver Island is looking at only 10 mm compared with the average 30 to 45 mm, according to Lee.

Some parts of the Interior could also smash records. Kelowna has only been sprinkled with 3 mm compared with an average of 32 mm and Prince George has received 18 mm instead of the usual 56 mm.

“Even last month in August we were trending very dry, especially for Vancouver Island and even into the Lower Mainland and into the southern interior of B.C.,” said Lee.

He said starting Friday there will be another ridge of high pressure over southern B.C. so there will be some warm and dry days over the weekend and into next week.

“So we are in for another stretch of warm weather,” said Lee, adding there’s not much precipitation until maybe after next week.

“It would be very beneficial for the province to get that precipitation. But still there will be a lot to catch up on because of how much we missed out on in August and September.”

If conservation measures do not achieve sufficient results and drought conditions worsen, the B.C. government said temporary protection orders under the Water Sustainability Act may be issued to water licensees to avoid significant or irreversible harm to aquatic ecosystems.

The government said staff are monitoring the situation and working to balance water use with environmental flow needs.

Climate change is contributing to more droughts and water shortages around the world, and experts say it is connected not just to global warming, but also biodiversity and nature loss, and pollution and waste, according to the UN.

A recent report from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification found that the number and duration of droughts has increased by almost a third in the last two decades.

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