Vancouver Island water watchers relax as solid snowpack confirmed

Provincial government officials say snow levels in the mountains are almost exactly where they should be

Vancouver Island's snowpack is at normal levels this spring according to a bulletin released today by the provincial government

Vancouver Island water watchers remain on alert in the wake of last summer’s extraordinary drought.

But they have found some comfort in at least one nice soft pillow.

According to the water supply bulletin posted today by the B.C. government, the Vancouver Island snowpack is right where one would expect it to be at this time of year: at 99 per cent of its normal historical level. It’s an early indication that the Island may not be facing the same extreme conditions experienced last year.

Compared to a Vancouver Island snowpack of just 15 per cent of normal on April 1, 2015, the current measurements are being welcomed as a positive, ending five straight years of decline.

B.C. River Forecast Centre section head David Campbell said weather volatility make long-term predictions impossible, but the Island is at a good starting point heading into summer.

“I think it is not as extreme as last year in terms of the snow,” he said. “It’s still been warm, but we’ve had enough accumulate on the higher elevation.”

The Wolf River snow pillow — located in the mountains northwest of Courtenay, and one of nine snowpack monitors on the Island — is reporting levels at 112 per cent of the expected normal.

For communities further south, a snowpack measuring at 78 per cent of normal is being reported from the Jump Creek snow pillow north of Cowichan Lake.

Snow levels matter more the further north you are because of the higher mountains in Strathcona Park. Further south, water supplies are more influenced by rainfall. Victoria is barely affected by snowfall at all.

Warmer conditions, but more rain led to generally higher snowpack across the island, Campbell said. The transition from snow accumulation season to melt season is already underway, about three weeks earlier than normal. River levels are expected to rise noticeably in the coming weeks.

Last year, the Island experienced what Environment Canada called an “exceptional” drought when lack of snow combined with high temperatures and drastically reduced rainfall to create a summer of extreme fire warnings and severe water restrictions for most communities.

One of the hardest-hit Island areas last year was the heritage Cowichan River, where flows were reduced to a trickle.

David Thompson, a retired hydrology technician and conservation volunteer from Shawnigan Lake made a rugged April 1 day trip to Heather Mountain, a remote recording area high in the mountains northwest of Cowichan Lake.

He trudged on snowshoes up beyond the 900-metre level to find drifts 2.25 metres deep and snow with excellent water density. After a similar trek last year found a lot of bare ground, he’s feeling much better about the coming summer.

“It’s nothing you can be sure of, but it’s going to be much better than last year,” he said. “If it comes off gradually, it will maintain lake levels. Soil moisture levels are good. We’ve had a lot of rain.”

In the Comox Valley, last year’s river flows — controlled by BC Hydro — were reduced to the lowest levels in 50 years.

Comox Valley Regional District general manager of engineering services Mark Rutten said last May, June and July had the region considering implementing extreme “stage four” water restrictions for the first time ever. Rain in August and September eliminated the need, but it served as a reminder: conditions today don’t necessarily equate to conditions tomorrow.

“What is interesting in this area that is very easy to overlook is that in the summer it’s like a desert. We can go three months with what seems like no rain. Only so much water is stored water.”

Rutten said that while the snowpack already could mean enough water to last until July, residents in most jurisdictions should expect restrictions at some point, regardless. In addition to human consumption, conservation considerations must also take into account the ecology in addition to things like power generation and industrial consumption.

“You know what’s coming. You might as well prepare.”

 

 

 

Just Posted

Classy cruiser continues to pay it forward

Bike up for sale to fund Sno’uyutth Legacy scholarships

Dance club marks 35 years with Sunday evening shindig

People Meeting People host dinner and dance Feb. 25 at Monterey Recreation

Significant heritage house on Beach Drive to be restored

Heritage Revitalization Agreement approved as part of subdivision proposal

Experts to capture and collar 20 female deer in Oak Bay starting this month

Does sedated, examined, collared and ear tagged in latest phase of deer management plan

B.C. BUDGET: Fare freeze, free travel for seniors on BC Ferries

A complete fare freeze will be put into place on major routes, and fares will be rolled back on smaller routes by 15 per cent

VIDEO: Top 10 B.C. budget highlights

The NDP is focusing on childcare, affordable housing and speeding up the elimination of MSP premiums

Canucks blow three goal lead, lose to Avalanche in overtime

Vancouver struggled on the penalty kill, as Colorado scored all five goals on the powerplay

Widow of avalanche victim sues Golden lodge operator

A woman from Alberta is suing guides, their mountain guide association and the lodge operator for negligence

BC BUDGET: NDP hope to nix court delays with $15 million cash influx

Union says funding could stop sheriffs from leaving for higher paid jobs

Cattlemen urge B.C. to prevent erosion caused during 2017 wildfire season

Other concerns are fencing restoration and repair, and a lack of feed for cattle.

B.C. runner takes silver at Pan American cross-country championships

Tyler Dozzi’s medal pushes U20 Team Canada to gold finish

Duncan cousins found guilty of aggravated sexual assault

Assault so violent, victim required surgery

Wanted by Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers for the week of Feb. 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Victoria airport to spend $19.4m on terminal expansion

Record passenger growth means YYJ needs to grow

Most Read