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Coldwater River System users Urged to Conserve Water

Despite normal flows for many streams and Level 1 drought conditions elsewhere within the Nicola region, low flows in the Coldwater River system are nearing Level 4, or “extremely dry,” drought conditions.

The Province is urging surface water and groundwater users within the Coldwater River system and Merritt municipal boundaries to voluntarily reduce consumption by 30%, in accordance with the provincial BC Drought Response Plan.

Low flows on the Coldwater River are threatening chinook salmon, which are currently in the river system. With continued hot, dry weather in the forecast, river flows are expected to continue to drop. These low flows not only threaten spawning salmon, but all fish populations in the Coldwater system.

The headwaters of the Coldwater River are in the Coast Mountains, where conditions have been much drier than in the Southern Interior region this summer.

Ministry staff are closely monitoring river levels and may upgrade drought levels and consider regulation of water usage if the weather continues to have a negative effect on stream flows and water supply. Residential, agricultural and industrial users within municipalities and regional districts are encouraged to observe local water conservation bylaws.

River system users are also encouraged to ensure that water intakes are screened to prevent fish from being pulled into water systems as flows drop. Low flows can impede the passage of salmon to spawning grounds, increase susceptibility to disease, cause stranding or death due to low oxygen and high water temperatures.

Similar to 2015, partial or complete closures of the Coldwater River for recreational fisheries may need to occur this summer. Ministry staff will continue to monitor conditions, work closely with local governments, First Nations communities and key stakeholders, and provide public updates as necessary.

Water conservation is everyone’s responsibility. Many communities in B.C. are prepared to deal with water supply shortages and low stream flow conditions by having drought management plans and water conservation programs already in place.

The Province asks that all British Columbians support these efforts and be stewards of their local water resource by conserving and protecting this vital resource for the environment, for our communities and for the many livelihoods that depend on our water.

The new Water Sustainability Act contains new tools to manage water use during times of scarcity, including authority for all households to access a basic amount of water for essential needs, protection of critical environmental flows for fish and ecosystems, and regulation of groundwater withdrawals that may impact stream flows. more

Click here for the BC's 2016 Drought Information Portal