Whether you’re a farmer or a streamkeeper, if you rely on rivers running with water in the summer and fall, you’re likely already keeping a close eye on the snowpack in the mountains.
“We do keep close track of what’s happening on the mountains, and we hope for a good snowpack because that will fill up the Tsolum for the summer,” said Tsolum River Restoration Society president Wayne White.
Last summer, water levels in the Tsolum River were dangerously low for salmon, and it could be a similar summer this year if the snowpack doesn’t improve.
The BC River Forecast Centre says the average snowpack on the Vancouver Island right now is about 49 per cent of normal, and it won’t get much help from Wednesday’s general snowfall for the Island.
“Typically, when we have had big snowfalls, same with the lower mainland as well, the mountains stay relatively dry,” said River Forecast Centre hydrologist Jonathan Boyd.
Boyd says he’s looking ahead to when the rains return this weekend with temperatures around 5 or 6°C in the cities, which will be perfect for bigger snows in the mountains.
“We need metres of snow in the mountains for a good snowpack, and certainly Vancouver Island does have the record for some of the absolute highest snow water equivalent values we’ve ever had,” Boyd said.
For that reason, he says the snowpack could rebound very quickly, even in the next month.
“At least for the next week or so, it looks like Vancouver Island is going to get kind of the healthiest amount of snow compared to the rest of the province for the mountains and the alpine,” he said.
The key in the spring will be a slow melt to keep the snowpack from disappearing as quickly as it did last year when May saw record heat.
Coho salmon in the Tsolum suffered a serious blow in 2023, and the full impact won’t be known until they come back as adults in four years.
“If we get four bad years in a row, we’re hooped,” said White.
A good snowpack is also important for high reservoirs in the summer, such as the Comox Lake Reservoir and the Upper Campbell Lake reservoir system, which is important for BC Hydro power generation and domestic water supply.