Advisory of the day
BRITISH COLUMBIA COASTAL COMMUNITIES ASKED TO CONSERVE WATER
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By Michelle Moore
The British Columbia government has asked residents on the coast to conserve water. Leading up to that almost two months of record high temperatures across the province has resulted in Environment Canada issuing multiple heat warnings.
On July 30 the province announced a Level 3 hydrological drought rating for much of coastal British Columbia. Residents are being asked to use water sparingly, including taking shorter showers and limiting outdoor watering.
The areas along the coast of the Alaskan border to the Lower Mainland are affected including Skeena Nas and Stikine basin. Also on Level 3 rating are Haida Gwai, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
High temperatures in June and July have surpassed long standing record temperatures in the province, breaking thirteen records only this weekend. Temperatures reached 41.4 degrees Celsius in Lytton where the old record high of 40 degrees had been held for 97 years.
A heat warning from Environment Canada said "these high temperatures are not out of the ordinary for this time of year. However, please be aware of the health risks associated with hot weather."
Exposure to extreme heat can lead to dizziness, nausea, headaches and rapid heartbeat. During times of extreme heat it is important to drink plenty of water, and take breaks indoors where it is cooler. Heat can cause heat stroke and require hospitalization.
Environment Canada said "extreme heat affects everyone. The risks are greater for young children, pregnant women, older adults, people with chronic illnesses and people working or exercising outdoors ... watch for the effects of heat illness: swelling, rash, cramps, fainting, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and the worsening of some health conditions."
At this point the water conservation order on the coast is voluntary. It is hoped that water use will decrease 20% or more. If those reductions are not enough and water levels fall below critical levels then the province may impose water regulations.
The Water Sustainability Act could be used to limit people's use of water. This could be done by temporarily suspending water licenses or issuing short term water approvals to restore flows in the most negatively affected streams.
The Department of Environment has identified several fishing streams on Vancouver Island that have almost reached critical levels for sustaining fish life and ecosystems. This includes the Koksilah, Chemainus, San Juan and Salmon Rivers.
The Department will continue to monitor levels at these streams and ask that water users in these areas especially conserve water to the maximum. It is also possible that the province issues an angling closure until water levels have increased.
Many municipalities have drought management plans and have also set up extra water fountains and cooling centres in community centres and libraries where people can cool off in air-conditioned spaces and have some water. Victoria and Vancouver's east end are also providing water and sunscreen to the homeless.