FORT ST. JOHN -- Even with the winter season, the drought levels across the Peace Region have remained at level five since summer.

According to the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, there is a distinction between the seasonal low-flow "dry season" that typically occurs and a drought, which is a period of unusually dry conditions compared to normal. This year, the province faced an unprecedented drought, especially across the Peace Region.

Fort Nelson, South Peace, East Peace and North Peace water basins are currently at level five. It’s the only area in the province at that level.

By summer 2023 the deficit in precipitation and streamflow was so substantial that even when fall and winter storms began to arrive, streamflow increases were generally much lower than would be expected for the precipitation totals. This fueled the worst wildfires ever and challenged people across the province, including First Nations, farmers and ranchers who faced the toughest challenges.

The ministry says adverse impacts from the drought are certain. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, farmers and ranchers across the Peace Region are already indicating grain and oilseeds are approximately 30 per cent below average due to the ongoing drought. They are still receiving information on the effects of the drought.

Rolla farmer Wayne Sawchuk said the Peace Region says he hopes for more snow after months of the summer’s devastating drought.

Sawchuk said when the snow melts in the spring it creates a runoff of water that also penetrates the ground. However, due to this year’s drought, most of the runoff evaporated.

He said if there isn’t enough snow over the winter season to make up for evaporation, farmers could face issues next season.

While the Ministry of Water says it’s difficult to define what quantity of precipitation is "enough" for a given area in a given year, the Peace Region would require around 10 to 12 feet of snow to properly penetrate the ground. there would also need to be adequate rain in the late spring/early summer. Without more precipitation or snowpack combined with a gradual freshet, a high water event on rivers resulting from snow and river ice melting, next summer could be similar or dryer than our past one, they explain.