With temperatures cresting 40¬įC in various parts of the province this week, BC Forests Minister Bruce Ralston signed the first Section 88 order of the season.
Lower Salmon River water users (east of Westwold) must cease irrigating forage crops from August 15 through September 30 in order to protect fish, specifically the spawning population of Thompson River Chinook salmon.
The order permits authorized irrigation of non-forage/grass crops, including market vegetables, fruits, nursery/tree containers.
The basin was previously subject to a Section 88 order ‚Äď also known as a temporary fish protection order ‚Äď in 2021, one of four affected that year. The others included the Koksilah, Bessette Creek and West Kettle.
Section 88 orders have yet to be issued for the other watersheds this year, though enforcement activities have been conducted against unauthorized users in the Koksilah, where the province is undertaking its first Water Sustainability Plan in partnership with the Cowichan Tribes. Criteria for the plans are set forth in the Water Sustainability Act,
Many local users expect a Section 88 order in the coming days, but the proposed water sustainability plan recognizes fish protection orders are not a long-term solution to water scarcity and that a more comprehensive approach is needed.
Some agricultural users in the region fear the proposed plan may include the power to alter or cancel existing water licences, jeopardizing the existence of multigenerational farms as well as the potential for new operations.
Users in the Bessette Creek watershed have also been asked twice this year to reduce water use. The most recent request, dated July 10, asked users to reduce water use by 50%.
Water users in several other regions have received similar letters, part of the province‚Äôs efforts to reduce water use before implementing restrictions.
While the province has distributed lists of alternate water sources, including municipal providers, some conservation efforts have prompted municipalities such as Merritt to turn off the taps for water haulers. Stage 3 water restrictions in place in several municipalities prohibit all outdoor water use, including for food production by both home and market gardeners.