A state of local emergency has been declared in a village in central British Columbia as drought increases in severity across the province.
As of midnight Wednesday, residents of McBride, a Robson Valley community about 180 kilometres southeast of Prince George, are prohibited from washing vehicles, building exteriors, filling up swimming pools, or watering lawns and gardens by hand.
"Dominion Creek, which supplies the McBride Community Drinking Water System, is experiencing extremely low flows due to the ongoing, severe drought conditions," said a statement on the village's website.
A water usage restriction order from the village, which has a population of around 600 people, said the prohibitions are needed "to ensure adequate water supply for drinking, fire protection and sanitary service."
'Sleeping giant of a natural disaster'
For weeks, the vast majority of B.C. — 80 per cent according to provincial officials — has been experiencing drought levels at or near the top of the province's 0-5 classification system.
On Sept. 14, the province raised the drought level in the Robson Valley to Level 5, which means that "adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem values are almost certain" and an emergency response is called for.
All summer, provincial ministers including Bowinn Ma, Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, and Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests have pleaded with residents across the province to conserve water and understand that drought conditions would stretch far into the fall.
Ma has described this summer's drought as a "sleeping giant of a natural disaster."
In McBride, residents were issued a water conservation notice in May that included year-round sprinkling restrictions. On July 11, the village asked for additional voluntary water conservation as conditions worsened.
On its website, it says those measures "have not resulted in reduced water use."
"Water usage restrictions are necessary to ensure essential community services like drinking water, sanitary service and fire protection can be provided during this period of drought," it said.
The village said ice-making and other water use will be permitted at local community and recreation centres, but steps are being taken by both the village and the regional district to reduce water consumption at those facilities.