The British Columbia government is restricting water use around a river on southeastern Vancouver Island that is so low it says fish populations, including steelhead, coho salmon and trout may be threatened.

The Forests and Lands Ministry says the current flow of the Koksilah River south of Duncan has dropped below 180 litres per second, causing such low water levels that habitat conditions are “severely degraded.”

An information bulletin posted by the Ministry says water use is immediately restricted for any licence holder with a permit to take water directly from the river or its tributaries.

Industrial users of wells in aquifers connected to the river must stop all diversion and the water cannot be used to irrigate hay and corn crops.

Farmers and ranchers can still use river water for their herds, while irrigation of perennial crops and vegetables is also permitted.

The restrictions remain in effect until Sept. 30 and the Ministry says the changes should keep water flows at a level that will maintain fish populations while minimizing the effect on the agricultural sector.