ADAPTING TO THE NEW REALITY OF LONGER, DRIER SUMMERS: Unlike other regions and countries, the water supply challenge in British Columbia’s mountainous environment is that seasonal water storage potential is limited – such that there is little margin for operational error even though our droughts are measured in months rather than years!

Note to Reader:

Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who embrace “design with nature” approaches to reconnect people, land, and water in altered landscapes. In this edition, we draw attention to the March 31st 2021 deadline for submitting feedback on the pending enhancement of British Columbia’s Drought Level Scale. This is an important tool to support timely local government actions in adapting to the new reality of longer, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters.



“In British Columbia, we measure our droughts in months – with the range being three to six months. Memories are short, and we are easily lulled into complacency. That is why it is timely that the provincial government reminds us of the importance of a Drought Response Plan, even when people live in a rain forest,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“Consider our recent experience. For five straight years, from 2015 through 2019, British Columbia repeatedly dodged a bullet due to the new reality of longer, drier summers. 2020 was different. It was a wet year. This is why we must not be lulled as we emerge from winter and look ahead to summer.”

“Once upon a time, a 5-month drought was considered possible but unlikely. And then it happened. A 6-month drought was considered improbable in the rain forest. And then it too happened – in 2015. The impact was so severe that the drought was voted the top news story of 2015.”

“As surely as day follows night, summer droughts follow winter rains. So why are BC communities consistently water-short when demand is greatest? The answer is a limited capacity to store water. In the big picture of water demand, our water supply lakes and reservoirs are mere puddles.”

EDITOR’S CONTEXT: Contrast with Australia

“In 2016, I was invited to Australia to deliver the keynote address at a national conference. The organizers asked me to contrast our BC experience with their Australian experience. Keep in mind that Australia had just survived another of its multi-year droughts,” continued Kim Stephens.

“Why would an Australian audience take me seriously, I wondered, when I contrasted our worst-case 6-month drought with their 7-year drought. And then I realized that all I need do is state the obvious. During a multi-year drought, their water suppliers have the luxury of time to take stock, react in a measured way, and adapt. In the BC situation, however, every week matters.”

“When the “Water OUT versus Water IN” safety factor is small – a typical water supply situation in BC – there is no margin for error when making operational decisions. Once storage reservoirs are empty, and incoming streams are dry, there is no more water! In British Columbia, close calls have been recurring since the extreme drought of 1987.”

If you are curious about what “Water OUT = Water IN” means, visit:


Getting ready – British Columbia’s drought response in 2021

WHY THERE IS AN ISSUE: Drought severity in B.C. is currently communicated through four “drought levels”. Because these categories are broad, it makes it difficult to communicate moderate levels of drought, worsening drought conditions over time, or when regions are experiencing abnormal water scarcity.

WHAT WOULD BE ACHIEVED: Desired outcomes in going to a 6-level system include better understanding of current conditions, advance warning of extreme drought, and better alignment with other jurisdictions in North America. The Province intends to run a trial of the proposed drought levels over summer 2021.

WHAT IS NEW: A new ‘severely dry’ level would signify a severe state of drought, and a new ‘exceptionally dry’ level would be used to identify drought conditions that are at or near historical lows.

TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK: Visit the Water Sustainability Act Engagement Blog site (Blog #32). on or before March 31st, 2021. Also, submit questions by email to


To learn more about BC’s Drought Level Scale, click below to watch the video

BC’s Proposed Six Drought Levels


How to Adapt to a Changing Climate in British Columbia

To learn more about the context for adaptation, watch the video:

About the Partnership for Water Sustainability

Incorporation of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia as a not-for-profit society on November 19, 2010 was a milestone moment. Incorporation signified a bold leap forward. Two decades earlier, a group of like-minded and passionate individuals, including representatives of three levels of government, came together as a technical committee. Over time, this “water roundtable” evolved into The Partnership.

The umbrella for Partnership initiatives and programs is the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia. In turn, the Action Plan is nested within Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan. Released in 2008, Living Water Smart was the provincial government’s call to action, and to this day transcends governments.

The Partnership’s guiding philosophy is to help others be successful. When they are successful, we are successful. The Partnership is led by a team of mission-focused volunteers, elders and collaborators. These individuals bring experience, knowledge and wisdom to the Partnership roundtable. This enhances the effectiveness of the Partnership as “the hub for a convening for action network”. Although many on the Partnership leadership team have retired from their day jobs, the water-centric mission continues.