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Metro Vancouver moved up to the second-highest stage of its water shortage plan on Monday, which prohibits lawn sprinkling and car washing. In other parts of the province, restrictions are in place on fishing and farmers fear they may have to sell their cattle.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

With no hint of rain in the forecast, there is growing concern about the economic, social and environmental toll of widespread drought in British Columbia.

In the city, lawns are turning brown and Vancouver's police force has stopped washing its patrol cars.

In the country, ranchers are calculating whether they will be able to buy enough feed to keep their cattle over the winter and, if not, how many animals they might have to sell.

On the water, fishing is not allowed, as the province has suspended angling in virtually all of the streams and rivers in the South Coast region – which runs from south of Toba Inlet on the coast to the Canada-U.S. border – because of warming water and low stream flows.

"It's at different levels throughout the province, but pretty much everywhere we are short on rain and really short on what we had for runoff to fill our reservoirs and dams," Kevin Boon, general manager of the B.C. Cattlemen's Association, said on Tuesday.

Because the rest of Western Canada is also dry, B.C. ranchers are finding it difficult to buy hay from greener pastures to the east.

A long stretch of hot and dry weather since May has put much of the province in drought conditions and is affecting activities ranging from agriculture to children's water parks.

It is driest on Vancouver Island and the South Coast, including the greater Vancouver region, which are at the fourth and

highest level of the province's drought-rating system.

Metro Vancouver moved to the second-highest stage of its water shortage plan on Monday, prohibiting lawn sprinkling and car washing.

The Vancouver Police Department said it would comply with the new guidelines by letting its cruisers get dusty.

Hans Schreier, an emeritus professor in soil science and instructor in watershed management at the University of British Columbia, said those restrictions should have been imposed months ago.

"It's a precautionary principle – in May, all the models and Environment Canada predicted that we were going to have a hot and dry summer," Prof. Schreier said on Tuesday.

"California is a clear indication and Washington declared a drought emergency in May. It was obvious to me this would have been a good place to start and we should have had drought restrictions on much, much earlier."

Prof. Schreier hopes the drought may persuade authorities to implement water metering and other conservation measures, such as requiring water-saving technology and fixtures in new construction.

Canadians are profligate water users, consuming about 350 litres per person, per day, compared with about 150 litres per person, per day in Europe.

Worldwide, jurisdictions that install water-metering systems – and implement fees for using more than the base amount – typically see residential water use drop by about 30 per cent.

While the province has implemented some fishing restrictions, several conservation groups on Tuesday said the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans needs to do more to protect spawning salmon.

Commercial and recreational salmon fisheries are taking place in Alberni Inlet, "while water temperatures in the Somas River have reached lethal levels," six groups calling themselves the Marine Conservation Caucus said in a statement.

In a letter to federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, the conservation group made several recommendations, including making some salmon runs off-limits to recreational fishers.