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

People’s Party of Canada plan to have a candidate in the North Island-Powell River riding

Elections Canada formally recognized the North Island—Powell River PPC Association

NVIATS takes over NIEFS space in Thunderbird Mall

“We were approached by NIEFS, they’re going to be downsizing”

Port Hardy Reigns compete in Nanaimo at Island Championships

“We are very fortunate to have this opportunity for our youth in Port Hardy”

Derina Harvey Band – Heartfelt, Energetic, Celtic rock comes to Port Hardy

Front-woman Derina Harvey leads this Celtic-rock act, who offer an authentic east-coast experience.

OPINION: Urgent care room will cost lives

“Seniors, of any demographic, are the most vulnerable to the loss of emergency care.”

VIDEO: ‘Alarm bells’ raised by footage allegedly from B.C. pig farm, SPCA says

PETA released video Wednesday showing dead and injured piglets next to nursing piglets

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

Defence accuses officer of ‘incompetence’ in trial for B.C. man charged with daughters’ murders

Double murder trial for the Victoria father accused of killing his two young daughters continues

B.C.’s largest Vaisakhi festival target of threatening Facebook post: Surrey RCMP

Police say they are investigating the posts on Facebook, after local MLA forwarded screenshots

Murder on B.C. property didn’t need to be disclosed before sale, court rules

Buyer had tried to break contract after learning a man with ties to crime had been murdered there

B.C. man turned to dating site for pimp operation, court hears

In court the details of how Simon Rypiak lured 4 women into prostitution revealed

Tofino beckons Trudeau for quiet Easter vacation

Environmental group hopes latest Pacific Rim vacation inspires change in prime minister

Should B.C. parents receive money if they make sure their kids are vaccinated?

New survey looks at public opinion around government’s role in forcing immunizations

Many teens don’t know they’re vaping nicotine, Health Canada finds

Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey finds youth unaware of nicotine product risk

Most Read