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British Columbia residents are being asked to do their part to conserve water as drought conditions parch the province.

Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Minister Bowinn Ma called on residents, farmers, business people and industrial plant operators to take urgent steps to cut water use.

She highlighted a report from B.C.’s River Forecast Centre that said the combination of record heat in May followed by early snow melt and persistently low levels of precipitation have created historic drought conditions across the province.

“Water is a precious resource and we are fortunate to have some of the best water in the world,” Ma said at a news conference. “Every drop counts and that’s why everyone needs to do their part.”

The report by hydrologist Jonathan Boyd said most of B.C. has received rainfall over the past year between 40 per cent and 85 per cent of annual average precipitation.

It said stream flows measured this week at some rivers on Vancouver Island and in northwestern B.C. are at the highest drought category, Level 5, while other major rivers in the Interior and Kootenays are getting close.

Shuswap Lake at Salmon Arm is currently recording water levels not historically seen until the fall and winter, said the report.

Four B.C. regions, the northeast, Bulkley Lakes and east and west Vancouver Island are currently at drought Level 5, with much of the rest of the province at Level 4, said the report.

At Level 5, conditions are exceptionally dry and all efforts should be made to conserve water and protect critical environmental flows.

Among the conservation measures Ma urged residents to consider were watering lawns sparingly, taking shorter showers and only doing full loads of laundry.

“You can save 19 litres of water for every minute of reduced shower time,” said Ma. “Every load of laundry uses up to 190 litres of water. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth or shaving.”

She said she has yet to consider introducing provincewide water restrictions, but some communities have already taken that measure.

Ma said she would meet Thursday with community and First Nations leaders about tackling the drought as the summer progresses.

“Unfortunately, with the climate crisis the changing climate is creating changing conditions here in B.C.,” she said. “The situation is severe. We need people to turn their minds to a conservation mindset now.”

Premier David Eby and Ma have both said the situation is serious and much of B.C. has never before experienced the current levels of drought this early in the summer.

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