Responding to Drought

At the first signs of a potential water shortage, any water that is conserved can help to reduce the risk of further stressing the water supply.

Water suppliers enact local drought stages based on current weather conditions, weather forecasts, water supply levels, and projected water demand.

When water supply is stressed, water suppliers may take the following measures to decrease water demand:

  • Ask or require agricultural and domestic users to reduce water use through watering restrictions.
  • During extreme drought, it may be necessary to implement early turn-off for agricultural customers.


Take action according to the drought response requested by YOUR local water supplier.

Local water supplier “drought stages” may differ from Provincial “drought levels” due to differences in local vs. regional drought.

Find drought management resources by commodity, below:

When water supplies become critically low, drastic measures may be needed to reduce water use and prevent a complete loss of water supply.

Forage Crops

The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture has developed a series of factsheets that provide information on the choices you have when dealing with insufficient irrigation water supply.

The Key Drought Management Factsheet lists the following options:

Fertilizer management and weed control considerations also change during a drought. Plan your fertilizer program based on expected yields. Weed control is crucial when water is short as they compete with your crop for available water.


Orchards and Vineyards

Drought during flower bud initiation in late summer can affect fruit yield for several years. The effects of drought during different times of the season will be different depending on the fruit trees’ or grapevines’ pattern of shoot and fruit growth.

The following strategies can result in decreased water losses in your orchard:

  • Mulching can increase water infiltration rates, decrease soil temperatures, decrease evaporation, and reduce weed growth.
  • Maximize the length of time between irrigations.  This decreases water loss to evaporation.
  • Irrigate at night and/or early in the morning – the cooler temperatures reduce evaporation.
  • Reduce weed growth and active cover crop maintenance as they are competing for moisture with your fruit trees or grapevines.
  • Reduce irrigation to less valuable varieties of your orchard or vineyard – if a block is reaching the end of its lifespan irrigation could be reduced in favour of younger more valuable plants.

Source: BC Tree Fruit Production Guide



Hot dry years not only affect the amount of high quality water that each animal requires, but may also result in damage to your rangeland or pasture.

Fire risk is also high during drought periods. Contact your Regional District or First Nations government to discuss Emergency Evacuation Plans for your livestock.