Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations of British Columbia

07/22/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/22/2021 14:17

Provincial drought, water-scarcity conditions

Drought and water scarcity continues to impact most of the southern half of British Columbia.

Most of these areas have experienced little to no rainfall over the last five weeks, with continued dry weather in the forecast.

Many freshwater angling closures are also in place throughout B.C., due to increased stress to fish from low flows and high water temperatures.

Water conservation is everyone's responsibility. Everyone needs to do their part to conserve water resources, to reduce the risk of impacts on the environment and other water users.

Areas currently under Drought Level 4 include:

  • the Salmon River, Coldwater River and Nicola River watersheds in the Thompson-Okanagan;
  • the Kettle River, Lower Columbia Basin, and West Kootenay Basin; and
  • the Eastern Vancouver Island Basin and Gulf Islands.

In these areas, adverse impacts of drought on people, fish or ecosystems are likely.

Regions currently under Drought Level 3 include the entire Okanagan Valley, Similkameen, South Coast and Lower Mainland, Cariboo/Chilcotin, North and South Thompson Basins and parts of Western Vancouver Island. Of note, several local streams on the Sunshine Coast, Lower Mainland, Okanagan and Cariboo/Quesnel within these broad areas are experiencing greater impacts.

Twelve other watershed basins in B.C. are either under Drought Level 2 or Drought Level 1. British Columbia ranks drought levels from 0 to 5. Drought Level 5 is rated as the most severe, with adverse impacts to socioeconomic or ecosystem values being almost certain.

All water users in affected areas need to reduce their water use wherever possible and observe all watering restrictions from their local/regional government, water utility provider or irrigation district.

If conservation measures do not achieve sufficient results and drought conditions worsen, temporary protection orders under the Water Sustainability Act may be issued to water licensees, to avoid significant or irreversible harm to aquatic ecosystems. Provincial staff are actively monitoring the situation and working to balance water uses with environmental flow needs.

Note that water use to extinguish a fire or contain and control the spread of a fire remains exempt from a provincial water licence or approval. However, people under an evacuation order due to wildfire must leave the area immediately.

General water conservation tips:

At home:

  • Limit outdoor watering.
  • Do not water during the heat of the day or when it is windy.
  • Consider planting drought-tolerant vegetation.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Do not leave taps running.
  • Install water-efficient showerheads, taps and toilets.

On the farm:

  • Implement an irrigation scheduling program using real-time weather data.
  • Schedule irrigation to match crop needs and soil storage capacity.
  • Improve water system efficiencies and check for leaks.
  • Focus on high-value crops and livestock.


  • Reduce non-essential water use.
  • Recycle water used in industrial operations.
  • Use water-efficient methods and equipment.

Learn More:

Drought portal (maps, tables):

Drought information:

Freshwater sportfishing regulations and angling closures:

River Forecast Centre:

Drought and agriculture: