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B.C. river systems at historically low levels

On top of wildfires, many areas in B.C. are now experiencing low river levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck File
Summary

Rivers in the Southern Interior are at drought levels after weeks without rain and the recent heatwave

The snow pack started out strong, according to the BC River Forecast Centre

Drinking water for Metro Vancouver residents not impacted by the river levels

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Our lack of rain, combined with the deadly heat dome last month, has left B.C.’s river systems at historically low levels.

Hydrologist Ashlee Jollymore with the BC River Forecast Centre says while the snow pack started out strong, our drought-like conditions are creating growing concerns.

“It’s kinda like overdrawing your bank account. We just did not make those rain deposits in the spring. Now we are in the dry part of summer and it’s really starting to show,” Jollymore said.

She says in addition to the lack of precipitation, the heatwave had a huge impact on the snow melt at higher elevations.

Many areas now seeing drought conditions are also within the wildfire regions.

Rivers in the Southern Interior are showing severe drought, level 5, the highest drought level. They include Salmon River, south of Kamloops, and the Shuswap River near Lumby.

Jollymore says the rivers and streams play a vital role in a healthy eco system, as they support fish habitat and forests. A lower stream could not only mean less water for fish to spawn and eat, but the water could be warmer.

The River Forecast Centre says it will be felt by the agriculture sector like those in the Fraser Valley. Jollymore says without significant rain, it’s expected the water level will only go further down, which could further impact water supply to crops.

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Currently, this is not affecting drinking water for Metro Vancouver residents, who are served by three large reservoirs on the North Shore and in Coquitlam.

However, they are down to about 80 per cent capacity.

The regional district says this isn’t expected to create additional water restrictions for Lower Mainland residents at this time.

Region-wide regulations remain in effect to restrict the lawn watering to twice a week.

On Friday, Vancouver’s urban forests received some much needed drought relief, according to Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.

Water cannons will be used to support trees where there is limited access to water sources. Staff will work overtime weekend shifts and two 350-gallon water trucks will be used to assist in the watering response.