Seasonal water levels are critically low and falling across the Boundary. Meanwhile, streams and rivers are already hot enough to kill fish, according to a recent drought update by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB).
The Kettle River Basin on Wednesday, July 14, reached an “extremely dry” Drought Level 4 on the province’s 1 – 5 scale. It was at Level 3 when RDKB Watershed Planner Kristina Anderson put out the update on July 8.
From Grand Forks and Bridesville to the West and between the city and Granby Provincial Park to the North, rivers and streams are dropping to their lowest levels ever recorded in mid-July, Anderson told The Gazette. With recurring heat waves dropping levels further still, water temperatures hit 24 C in parts of the Kettle River earlier this month, which she said is connected with ongoing fish kills in the region.
“Fish are struggling,” she said, adding, “they’re not evolved to handle these really warm waters.”
Groundwater levels are meanwhile dropping to levels last seen in the area in the summer of 2015, when the Rock Creek wildfire burned well in excess of 3,750 hectares of forest before it was contained. The more immediate threat to humans and fish is that both depend on underground aquifers to replenish surface water throughout the summer months.
Anderson expects drought conditions will get worse before they get better. “I’m asking people to look at their non-essential water use to how much they can go without,” she continued. People are well on their way to boosting conservation when they “use water in a way that water works for them,” she said.
To that point, Anderson is echoing calls by local governments to water lawns and gardens at night, when evaporation rates are much lower than during the day. Next, residents are asked to avoid spraying down their patios and driveways.
Even as drought conditions are accelerating, Anderson said the RDKB is steadily advancing toward long-term water sustainability. Pointing to the raft of actionable strategies set out in the RDKB’s Kettle River Watershed Management Plan, she said, “It takes a long time to effect some of these things, but we’re doing the work and we’re slowly making progress.”
Anderson said she encourages concerned residents to contact her by phone at 250-442-4111 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.