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Friday, June 1. 2016

It’s that time of year again to think about water conservation. Being located in British Columbia, we are very fortunate to have great water resources but that doesn't mean those resources are limitless. Water levels on parts of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands are already so low that the province is urging residents for prepare for yet another summer of drought conditions and water restrictions.

During the warm summer months you may hear the terms “drought levels” and “water restrictions” often being used by the media. We have noticed some confusion with the meaning of these terms and would like to help clarify.

The Difference Between Drought Levels and Water Restrictions

Drought is a recurrent feature of climate involving a lack of precipitation over an extended period of time, resulting in a water shortage. In BC, drought may be caused by a combination of insufficient snow accumulation, hot and dry weather or a delay in rainfall.

Changing rainfall patterns and insufficient snow accumulation has forced municipalities to become accustomed to water restrictions during the warm/hot summer months. Restrictions will depend on reservoir levels and how much rain has fallen in the water catchment area where you live. As water restrictions are seasonal, you will probably see a higher restriction stage in the drier summer months.

Drought Levels may guide the implementation of water restrictions by local water authorities; however, they are not the same thing. Water restrictions are put in place by your local water providers in response to the reduced water availability. Water restrictions encourage people to use drinking water for high priority uses.

Why Municipal Water Restrictions?

Municipal water restrictions are essential to ensure healthy and reliable water supplies now and into the future. Penalties will apply if you don’t follow the rules making it important to be aware of the formal restrictions and adopt water wise habits as part of your daily activities.

For Vancouver Island residents, find your local water restriction stages here: Vancouver Island Water Restrictions

What Are BC Drought Levels?

British Columbia uses four levels of Drought Classification to explain the severity and appropriate level of response to drought conditions.

Level 1 “Normal Conditions”

Conditions are normal and there is sufficient water to support the ecosystem and uses. Emphasis is on preparedness and taking action in advance of droughts in order to increase readiness of water users and communities when they inevitable occur.

Level 2 “Dry Conditions”

First indications of potential water supply shortages are recognized. Emphasis is on stewardship and voluntary conservation through education, communication and planning.

Level 3 “Very Dry Conditions”

Potentially serious ecosystem or socio-economic impacts are possible or imminent and impacts may already be occurring. Emphasis continues to be on voluntary conservation but increasing use of watering restrictions may be imposed by water service providers.

Level 4 “Extremely Dry Conditions”

Water supply is insufficient to meet socio-economic and ecosystem needs. Progressively more severe and widespread socio-economic impacts are expected. Voluntary measures and increasing use of water restrictions will continue but may be augmented by regulatory responses by the provincial government including use of authorities provided un the Water Act, the Fish Protection Act and other legislation.

Final – “Loss of Supply”:

Further action including emergency responses may be required in the event that a community or system experiences a complete loss or near loss of water supply.

What You Can Do

Water conservation is everyone’s responsibility, especially during a drought. There are many effective ways to conserve water in and around your home.

Here are a few water conservation tips: Water Conservation Tips