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B.C. entering ‘unfamiliar territory’ with drought

Another hot, dry summer will exacerbate drought conditions going back to 2022

Parts of British Columbia will likely enter “unfamiliar territory” with drought if they see another hot, dry summer, says the head of the province’s River Forecast Centre.

Dave Campbell says persistent drought conditions in B.C. stretch back to 2022, so the province is heading into this summer with “multi-year” precipitation deficits. Satellite photos show rivers across the province running narrower and shallower than the same time in 2023, which went on to be one of B.C.’s driest years on record. The Thompson River at Ashcroft is several feet lower than it was at the same time last year.

The most recent Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin from B.C.’s River Forecast Centre says that as of May 1, the provincial snowpack was “extremely low”, averaging 66 per cent of normal across the province. At the same time last year, the provincial average was 91 per cent. The Fraser River at Hope snow basin index is “well below” normal, at 63 per cent.

Regionally, the North Thompson is at 71 per cent of normal, while the South Thompson is at 80 per cent. However, the Lower Thompson is only at 23 per cent, and the Nicola is at 34 per cent, and Campbell says he is most worried about the effects of drought on smaller rivers and creeks in the central Interior. The only regions in B.C. with near normal to above normal snow are the Stikine, Northwest, and Liard.

The report notes that an early melt of a shallow snowpack has occurred in the B.C. Interior, and many areas are already free of snow. “At this stage in the season there is no elevated flood risk present in the current snowpack across the province,” it says, while noting that May and June are usually wet months through the B.C. Interior, with the potential for extreme precipitation patterns that could contribute to flooding.

There is a moderate likelihood of above normal temperatures across the entire province from May to July, and above normal precipitation in parts of the Southern Interior. However, the report states that there are “concerns for drought this season due to long-term precipitation deficits [and] low snowpack.” Campbell says he is worried about cumulative effects that could include water scarcity and other challenges.

“We know these antecedent conditions that we’re coming into this year are much more challenging than we started out last year with,” he said in a recent interview. “The concern obviously is if we get that hot, prolonged dry [period] that we’ve seen last year and the year before as well. If that continues this summer, then really we are on a path toward things that we haven’t seen in recent memory.”

Twenty-six per cent of the province — including most of the Southern Interior — is currently at Drought Level 2, with 33.6 per cent of the province — including all of the Central Interior — at Drought Level 3. The highest Drought Level is 5.

At a provincial update on May 9, Nathan Cullen — Minister of Land, Water, and Resource Stewardship — said that the province has already asked heavy industrial users to curtail their water consumption, with additional plans in the pipeline. But he also urged all British Columbians to do their part to conserve water, a point echoed by Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma.

“We need to learn that water here in British Columbia is sadly not a resource that is as abundant as it may have been in years past as a result of climate change,” she said.

The May 9 update coincided with Emergency Preparedness Week, and the ministers urged British Columbians to prepare for emergencies ahead. The province has introduced an Emergency Ready Planner ( to help people create an emergency and evacuation plan for their family, and has made major upgrades to the BC Wildfire Service app to better connect people to the latest wildfire and fire ban information.

The province’s Drought Information Portal ( has also been updated, to better inform people about drought levels and watershed conditions around B.C.

With files from Black Press