Responding to current dry conditions, the provincial government has announced a level-three drought rating for the South Thompson, Nicola, Similkameen, Okanagan-Kettle and Skagit regions, and taken the additional action of suspending angling in streams and rivers throughout the South Okanagan due to ongoing low stream flows and warming water temperatures.
Effective July 15 through Sept. 15 all streams and rivers in the Similkameen drainage as well as the Kettle and West Kettle Rivers, and all tributary streams in these areas will be closed to angling. The angling closure covers all streams in wildlife management units 8-2 through 8-7 and 8-12 through 8-14.
The closure has been put in place to protect fish stocks at a time when they are vulnerable due to low flows and high water temperatures, says Victoria. The geographic area covers most of the south Okanagan. Lake fishing is not affected by the order.
On July 3, a similar angling closure order was put in place for southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. B.C. government fisheries biologists are monitoring approximately 60 other key angling streams throughout the province, and if conditions warrant, additional closures are possible.
Angling closures are enabled through the British Columbia Sport Fishing Regulations of the federal Fisheries Act.
Separately, level-three drought conditions call for voluntary water use reductions of 20 per cent or more from all municipal, agricultural and industrial users. Staff with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations anticipate that these regions could experience significant water supply shortages in 2015.
Ministry staff say they are closely monitoring river levels and ecosystems and may upgrade the drought level if the weather continues to have a negative effect on stream flows and water supply.
Currently, there are low streamflow advisories in effect for Vancouver Island, the South Nicola and Western Similkameen Regions.
Although residential, agricultural and industrial users within municipalities and regional districts backed by reservoir storage are less vulnerable to water supply shortages than water users served by smaller water systems from streams, lakes and wells, all water users are encouraged to observe local water conservation bylaws to prolong water supplies, says the province.
Water users are also encouraged to ensure that water intakes are screened to prevent fish from being pulled into water systems as water levels drop. Low water levels can impede the passage of salmon to spawning grounds, increase susceptibility to disease, or cause stranding or death due to low oxygen and high water temperatures.
Level-four drought conditions, the highest rating, are determined by factors including regional stream flows, water storage capacity, ecological concerns, weather forecasts and impacts on water users. Should conditions reach level four, provincial water managers may exercise their authority to temporarily suspend short-term water permits or industrial water licences in affected watersheds.
Further reductions in stream, lake and aquifer levels could lead to water shortages and affect people, agriculture, industry and fish stocks.
Ministry staff say they will continue to monitor conditions, work closely with local governments and key stakeholders, and provide updates as the need arises.
The province says water conservation is everyone’s responsibility.
But many communities in B.C. are prepared to deal with water supply shortages and low streamflow conditions by drought management plans and water conservation programs that are already in place, it says.
To see a map of the areas covered by the stream and river angling closures in the Okanagan visit:https://www.flickr.com/gp/bcgovphotos/cK43Pi.