California North? Drought could raise food prices on Vancouver Island
Dried-up crops and rising food prices could be in the forecast for Vancouver Island if drought conditions worsen over the summer, local farmers warn.
Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii are already seeing level three drought conditions, meaning everyone in the region is being asked to voluntarily cut water use by 20 per cent or more – including farmers.
“We’re really feeling the effects,” said Laurie Gourlay, the owner of Thistledown Farm in Cedar, B.C., just south of Nanaimo. “Tree branches are coming down, the creeks are starting to go dry, we’re not seeing the water flow.”
And if there’s no rain in the forecast, it could get worse.
Level four is the highest drought rating that can be issued by the government, and if it gets to that point, farmers may be forced to turn off their taps and call it a summer.
“Some water users may not be able to use their full licenses supply of water,” said Valerie Cameron, Water Stewardship Manager for Victoria. “Irrigation, the agricultural community starts to become impacted, so that’s definitely a higher level of drought.”
But the devastating effects won’t just be felt on the farmlands. According to Gourlay, your food budget will also take a hit.
“Food prices are going up, there’s just no other way around it,” he said. “Because production costs are going up and production levels are going down, we’re gonna see California North here.”
He said he’d like to see local governments working together with the public to identify a backup plan that will allow the most efficient use of water should the drought worsen.
Water officials are monitoring the situation and say the government is not planning on declaring a province-wide state of draught emergency.
“Just encouraging everybody to be conscious of water use,” said Cameron. “Water is very precious, and practice water conservation.”
Despite the drought conditions, Victoria is doing far better than the rest of the island when it comes to water levels, the board chair of the Capital Regional District told C-FAX radio Wednesday.
Nils Jensen said at about 94 per cent full, the city’s reservoir is big enough to make it through two winter droughts.
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island’s Jett Bassi