WATCH: September saw the lowest inflows to Comox Lake and Campbell River reservoirs since record-keeping began in 1963.
The calendar has changed from summer to fall, but the change of season still hasn’t brought the kind of measurable rain reservoirs on the mid and north island need.
“The water inflows we’ve been seeing over the last 6 weeks are the lowest we’ve ever seen in any month going back 54 years, which is pretty remarkable,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson.
BC Hydro manages dams on the Campbell River and Comox Lake systems.
Inflows into the Comox Lake reservoir were just 42% of normal in September and in the Campbell River system it was even lower at 26% of normal.
“When you think we go through 2015 and the extreme dry weather we had then and then you compare that to last fall, October, November where it was a deluge of six weeks of rain and one in 100 year storm events and now we’re back in October and it’s extremely dry,” added Watson.
Domestic water supplies remain unaffected so far, and the Comox Valley, for example, remained at only Stage one water restrictions most of the summer. The reason? Last winter. The abundant mountain snowpack kept feeding the reservoirs all summer even as the rains stayed away.
But very quickly now the situation has changed.
“It’s extremely challenging. We work with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and FLINRO (Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development) to look at how we can balance that with spawning salmon that want to come into the river systems,” said Watson. “So we’ve got a couple of variances already on Puntledge, we reduced flows again last night to about 12 cubic metres a second, it should be well above 18 or higher but it is what it is. We’re trying to conserve water. The Comox Lake reservoir is dropping 3 to 5 centimetres per day.”
The next few weeks appear to be critical.
“We think we can get through the next three weeks to the end of October with the flow changes we’ve made across the system but once we get into early November and it continues to be spotty in terms of precipitation then we might have to take further action but hopefully that doesn’t happen and those rains come sooner rather than later,” said Watson.