Due to dry weather in July and record-low river levels in the northern half of British Columbia, Environment Minister Barry Penner said on August 20 that the Peace region has been reclassified to Drought Level 4 (extremely dry conditions).
A high-pressure ridge over the province brought dry, above-average, and in some cases record-setting temperatures for most areas of British Columbia during the past week. River levels in the North continue to fall and in many cases are at or near historic lows. Given the continuation of dry conditions and record-low river levels in the North, Penner is asking British Columbians to conserve water to protect water sources and help manage water demands.
In northern B.C., river levels are well below normal. In the Peace region, most tributaries are near or at record minimum low flows for this time of year. The Moberly, Pine, Kiskatinaw, Halfway, Finlay, Ospika, Omineca, Mesilinka and Osilinka, and Nation rivers are extremely dry (near or below previously recorded low for the date). In the far Northeast, the Liard River has now also fallen to historic low flows. On the North Coast, the Skeena and Stikine rivers are below a 20-year return period low flow.
Flows along the mainstem of the Fraser River downstream of the confluence of the McGregor River are at 10-year return period low flows. In the Central Interior, the Cariboo region is also dry with the Quesnel and Horsefly rivers between 10- to 20-year return period low flows. In contrast, streams in the Chilcotin region are generally between median and five-year return period low flows.
In the Thompson River area, water levels on most streams are between median and five-year low flows, although the upper Salmon River at Falkland is now below normal. Similar conditions are present in the Similkameen and Okanagan region, with most streams between median and five-year return period low flows. Exceptions are Vaseux, Coldstream, and Mission creeks which are approaching 10-year return period low flows.
In the Kootenay and Columbia areas, streamflow conditions are generally slightly below normal for this time of year.
On Vancouver Island, most river levels on the north island are above average, and streams on the south island are normal for this time of year. On the South Coast mainland, river levels are at or above average for this time of year.
Given the continuation of dry conditions and record-low river levels in the north, the Peace region is now classified at Drought Level 4 (extremely dry conditions). The Skeena and Nass region will be maintained at Drought Level 3 (very dry conditions). These conditions are expected to persist throughout the summer unless above normal rainfall occurs.