Merritt — September 21, 2020 — The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has notified the City of Merritt that drought conditions in the Nicola region are continuing to worsen. The Coldwater River is in drought level 4 (Extremely Dry) and further watering restrictions are necessary to protect local fish populations.
Effective Monday, September 21, 2020, the City of Merritt residents are asked to cease residential lawn watering and vehicle washing. This applies whether watering is done through automatic irrigation, controlled sprinklers, or by hand. Vegetables and flowers may be watered by hand as required, as long as a controlled flow nozzle is used. These water restrictions will continue in force until further notice.
Agriculture water users who receive their water from the surrounding rivers have voluntarily shut off their irrigation systems to ensure adequate water for rearing fish. Currently, the Coldwater River has reached lows comparable to last year’s drought and is well below the critical level for rearing fish in the Coldwater River.
The fish within the Coldwater river are important for the ecosystem and local Indigenous culture. Currently, there are late run Chinook Salmon trying to spawn in the lower and mid portions of the Coldwater River. Some of the key fish species in the Coldwater are Thompson Steelhead, Chinook Salmon, and Coho Salmon, Bull Trout and Mountain Whitefish. Thompson Steelhead and Coho Salmon have been designated by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as endangered and threatened, respectively.
The City of Merritt draws its water supply from the aquifer hydraulically connected to the Coldwater River and we understand that this aquifer receives approximately 70% of its recharge or water from the Coldwater River.
Mayor Brown said, “We need these short-term measures, but more importantly, Council is committed to exploring and implementing long-term solutions that will minimize the City’s draw from the Coldwater River during the summer. Our aquifers have plenty of water, so we aren’t at risk on that front, but we cannot continue to look the other way as we see the Coldwater River struggling year after year. The Coldwater River may be the most drought-vulnerable river in the Province, and as good stewards of the land, we must work together to ensure and restore the health of the river.”
“I know there are those who question the science behind the connection between the surface water of the Coldwater River and the aquifer,” continued Mayor Brown. “We have commissioned a grant funded study, which is currently underway, to help us better understand this issue. We freely acknowledge that we do not yet know the degree to which a full watering restriction will support Coldwater River flows, but we do know that the impact can only be positive. With levels as low as they are now, every last drop helps.”
The City of Merritt has implemented the following measures to reduce water consumption:
- Shut down the Rotary Spray Park
- Postponed the City Street Sweeping Program
- Not washing City equipment except for Garbage Trucks, Fire Trucks, and necessary Fire Department equipment
- Minimizing the use of the Voght Park well pumps and utilizing the Fairley Park and Collettville pumps as primaries
- Ceased irrigation in all parks and the cemetery, including flower beds
For more information about regional and provincial drought levels, visit the below resources.