The dry conditions being felt across B.C. – spurring various levels of warnings and drought ratings to be issued – have finally reached the Campbell River water system.
BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson says that while the water system for the region has more water this year than last year at this time, “as we enter the summer period it is beginning to dry out. The snowpack has essentially been depleted about a month ahead of normal,” Watson says, and April and May were especially dry compared to most years.
Hydro has some flexibility within their Water Use Plan operations to store and release water through the dam system, so because Environment Canada is telling them to expect a warm dry summer, they are now reducing flows to conserve available reserves.
“We have been storing what water has been coming into the Campbell River system reservoirs where we can, and also releasing enough water downstream for fish habitat to help with the rearing and out-migration of salmon,” Watson says, and while the lakes in the system are at their target levels for this time of year, they definitely need to begin conserving now that most of the salmon are out of the water system.
The flow in the Campbell River, Watson says, was at about 100 m3/s last week, but Hydro began to decrease the flow June 30, expecting to reach a flow rate of about 28 m3/s by the end of this week.
“BC Hydro has a water supply forecast that’s developed each year for the February to September period and updated on a monthly basis,” Watson says. “This considers the year’s precipitation and snowpack, as well as historical inflows over the same period. The forecast provides a guide to our operations in how we may need to conserve water supplies as we go through the summer and into the early fall. The February to September water supply forecast is for 107 per cent of normal. But February to May, with those storms and early snowmelt, inflows into the Campbell River system were 132 per cent of normal.”
From now through September, however, with the high elevation snowpack now gone earlier than usual, the water inflow forecast looks to be “quite dry” at 74 per cent of normal, he says, so Hydro will be watching the weather forecast closely “and adjust operations as needed in consideration of all water use.”
As of July 5, there is no still effect on fishing in the Campbell River system, despite most rivers and streams on Vancouver Island south of Campbell River being under angling restrictions due to the drought conditions since Canada Day.
Meanwhile, the City of Campbell River is reminding people (PDF) that despite the province declaring our area to be in a Level 4 drought, that’s not the same thing as a Level 4 water restriction.
Water restrictions, according to the city, are determined by the amount of water available and the ability of the water system to deliver that water to residents, but because Campbell River has such a large watershed – more than 1,800 km/sq in size – the city doesn’t face the same concerns about running out of water as other communities served by smaller watersheds.
That doesn’t mean residents can just use as much water as they want, however.
A release by the city warns that water restrictions are based on how much water the community uses, so voluntary reduction in water use enables the city to avoid further restrictions. The city’s water system is built to deliver up to 1,065 litres of water per second to the city, 300 of which are allocated for firefighting, leaving 765 for household and business use. If the community uses water responsibly, according to the city release, the peak demand for water should remain well below that 765 litre per second level, so we can stay at a Level 1 water restriction.
Questions or concerns on water use should be directed to Water Wise at 250-203-2316 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org