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'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.”

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sidney Jon Blair said he would have died if a van and car had collided at the intersection of corner of Resthaven Drive and Brethour Avenue in early December. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney senior urges motorists to slow down on Resthaven Drive

Jon Blair said community must become more pedestrian-friendly

Bob Joseph, author of 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, will be available for a Q&A through the Vancouver Island Regional Library Jan. 28. (Courtesy of Vancouver Island Regional Library)
Q&A on the Indian Act with Bob Joseph open to Greater Victoria residents

Bob Joseph is the author of 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act

Tarpaulin-covered tents sit next to one of the ponds in Beacon Hill Park. The location of the Meegan community care tent has still not been nailed down, as Victoria council rejected the recommendation offered by city staff. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Location of care tent for Victoria’s Beacon Hill campers still not settled

Council roundly rejects Avalon Road site, road’s edge on Cook Street appears the top alternative

Coaches with the Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey association have had to get creative during their weekly practices to keep players interested and improving their skills without physical contact. (Damian Kowalewich photo)
West Shore minor hockey coach shares what it’s like on the ice without parents, fans

Most practices consist of relay races, goalie shots and passing drills

The Songhees Wellness Centre is a symbol of First Nations strength in the region. Representatives of local First Nations will soon play a greater role in decision making and governance relating to the Capital Regional District. (Courtesy Royal Roads University)
Capital Regional District to add First Nations representatives to advisory committees

Board approves bylaw, looks forward to Indigenous input on future decisions

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Everett Bumstead (centre) and his crew share a picture from a tree planting location in Sayward on Vancouver Island from when they were filming for ‘One Million Trees’ last year. Photo courtesy, Everett Bumstead.
The tree-planting life on Vancouver Island featured in new documentary

Everett Bumstead brings forth the technicalities, psychology and politics of the tree planting industry in his movie

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)

Most Read