Don’t be fooled, the rainy weather on the coast and the heavy snow in the mountains doesn’t mean the reservoir levels are up.
BC Hydro began water conservation measures Wednesday due to dramatic declines in the reservoirs.
“Since the middle of December the water inflows into the Campbell River system have dropped considerably,” said Hydro spokesman Stephen Watson.
Reservoir levels are getting lower and corrective operations are now being undertaken by BC Hydro to deal with the low water conditions that look to continue for at least another 10 days.
The relatively high snowpack last spring allowed BC Hydro to manage through the very dry July to September period. By the end of September, BC Hydro increased the water flows below John Hart and into the Campbell River to about 100 cubic metres per second (m3/s).
This was the minimum level of operations for the time of year and BC Hydro held at that level until mid-December. Full generation allows for 125 m3/s and BC Hydro has yet to reach that level since spring 2012.
On Dec. 19, seeing the dry winter inflow conditions, BC Hydro began modest water conservation measures by reducing the Campbell River down to 80 m3/s. Given November to January are the primary flood risk management months for BC Hydro, the water abundance issues were being monitored but were not a concern as one large storm system could considerably change things.
Water inflows into the reservoirs have dropped off dramatically in recent weeks with total inflows forecasted to drop down to 17 m3/s by Sunday.
“For perspective, these are the kinds of water inflows we would normally see in early September at the end of a dry summer,” said Watson. On Wednesay, BC Hydro reduced the Campbell River flow down to 70 m3/s. BC Hydro has been working with government fisheries agencies as the river is fully covered at 79 m3/s. The river flow is now going below that level and will begin to expose river margins and some gravel bars. Site assessments are being carried out today to determine any further flow reductions to conserve water, while minimizing impacts to fish. BC Hydro is running the John Hart generating station at about 50 per cent of capacity.
The Upper Campbell Reservoir is at 215.75 metres and is about 2.5 metres below the average level for this time of year. It will begin to drop at a significant rate with water releases below the dams being more than three times the inflows into the reservoirs. The area snow pack is above normal, and Vancouver Island has the highest snow pack in the province at 130 per cent of normal for this time of year. The precipitation that has fallen since December has fallen as snow in the upper watershed.