'Exceptional drought' conditions expand in Okanagan

'Exceptional drought' grows

The scattered rain the Okanagan saw to end the summer made little difference to the drought situation in the region.

Agriculture Canada reports that D4 “exceptional drought” conditions — the highest rating on the federal government’s scale — expanded significantly in August.

Exceptional drought conditions are now being reported through the Okanagan, into the Shuswap as well as the southern part of the Kootenay-Boundary. Conditions, however, improved somewhat in the Kamloops area.

"Precipitation across British Columbia for the month of August remained slightly below normal, except the southeast corner near Cranbrook, which saw substantial precipitation. Despite more precipitation in the last 30 days, overall precipitation for the growing season remained extremely low across the Interior," said Agriculture Canada in its end-of-summer report.

“Water restrictions were put in place in the Thompson-Okanagan region in order to reduce the strain on aquatic life and restore the flow volumes required to ensure the survival of significant aquatic species. Concern also remains for cattle as ranchers face hay shortages due to the drought and unseasonably hot weather throughout the summer."

Drought has impacted Western Canada’s growing regions for most of this year and many crops are forecast to have below-normal yields.

By the end of August, 66% of B.C. was categorized as “abnormally dry” and nearly 40% of the region was in moderate to exceptional drought (D1-D4); these conditions accounted for ninety-one percent of the region’s agricultural landscape.

Provincial data shows the Kettle and Salmon River basins are the hardest hit.

Some water license holders on the West Kettle River were told to stop using water for irrigation of forage crops (grass/legume and dairy alfalfa) as of August 31. Other restrictions are in place for the Salmon River and Bessette Creek as well.

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