Gene Runtz, the mayor of McBride, British Columbia, is deeply concerned about the looming threat of a winter water shortage in his community. McBride, located in central B.C., declared a state of emergency on September 19 and implemented water usage restrictions due to water crisis , reaching Stage 5, the highest level on the province’s severity scale.
The state of emergency has been extended until the end of October at Runtz’s request to the Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, Bowinn Ma. With a population of just under 600 people, McBride relies solely on Dominion Creek for its water supply, and the lack of data on water levels has made it challenging to plan effective responses to the crisis.
To address this issue, the municipality is bringing in a hydrologist to assess the current water levels in Dominion Creek. They are considering options such as building a temporary dam further upstream to capture any available water at higher elevations. Runtz expects to have more information within two weeks.
Dominion Creek is typically fed by snowmelt from Lucille Mountain, which usually retains snow until mid-August. However, this year, satellite imaging revealed the absence of snow on Lucille in June, an unprecedented occurrence that has raised alarm.
B.C. government Alert
Since September, residents have been under water usage restrictions, prohibiting the use of sprinklers, outdoor watering, cleaning building exteriors, and filling pools or fountains. The drought conditions are also a significant concern for firefighting efforts in the region. Fire Chief David Hruby, who is also a farmer, described these conditions as the worst in his four-decade career. Access to water from the Fraser River is being explored as an emergency measure.
The province of British Columbia continues to grapple with the consequences of an extended period of hot, dry weather. River levels remain critically low, and almost half of the province’s water basins are experiencing drought impacts. Several wildfires are still active, with 11 of the province’s 34 watersheds at Level 4 or 5 drought conditions, indicating a high likelihood of harm to ecosystems and humans.
The B.C. government has been alerting the public about the water crisis for months, with officials urging residents to conserve water. Minister Bowinn Ma has described this year’s drought as a “sleeping giant of a natural disaster.” The government has put a reimbursement program in place to assist local governments and First Nations with the transportation of alternate drinking water.
While the province stands ready to provide support if necessary, McBride has not yet requested such assistance. Minister Ma’s ministry is in the process of developing a list of vendors to aid with water transportation and is closely collaborating with McBride to address the ongoing drought crisis.