Campbell River reservoir levels stable

Water inflows into the Campbell River watershed were at record levels

BC Hydro is feeling flush these days.

That’s because water levels in the Campbell Reservoir/Buttle Lake are in good shape and are expected to remain that way into the summer.

On Tuesday, BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson provided a Campbell River system hydroelectric update, including a water supply forecast for the summer and what that may translate into for reservoir levels and Campbell River flow targets.

“BC Hydro managed through a drier than normal winter where reservoir levels hovered near the lower elevations,” Watson said. “Conservation measures were taken to protect downstream fish habitat and the emerging salmon alevins and fry out of the gravel. Things began to change in April with some warmer temperatures causing snow melt and a few moderate storm events. April’s total water inflows were 119 per cent of normal.”

As 2013 moved along, BC Hydro began to be concerned about meeting summer reservoir recreation along with downstream river flow targets. All those concerns went away in May.

The hot temperatures led to a significant release of water from snow melt. While some temperature records were broken for the time of year, so were the water inflows into the Campbell River watershed. Some rain events also added to the inflows. Daily average water inflows hit record levels on May 7, 11, 12 and 13. The highest was 476 m3/s while downstream releases from John Hart were around 100 m3/s. During the annual freshet period from late April to August, the 476 m3/s inflow volume was the third highest in about 50 years of record.

This had the Upper Campbell Reservoir/Buttle Lake, which at one point earlier this year was at its second lowest level on record, react in a big way starting May 4 when it was sitting at 216.1 metres. The reservoir increased by over two metres in ten days. As of today, it is currently at 218.55 metres. Water inflows for the month of May are tracking at 192 per cent of normal.

BC Hydro’s water supply forecast is showing water inflows for the May to September period to be about normal at about 93 per cent. That percentage could fluctuate by 10 per cent should it turn dry or wet.

Upper Campbell Reservoir summer recreation targets range from 217 metres to 220.5 metres, with ideal conditions around 219.5 metres. The current water supply situation calls for good reservoir recreation conditions for this summer. Target Campbell River flows of around 40 m3/s from July into September also look promising; this is good for fish habitat and river recreation, such as fishing accessibility.

“The one caveat is should the summer weather turn drier or wetter than normal, water levels and flows across the system may need to be adjusted,” Watson said.