Low snowpack prompts local drinking water concerns

By Ian Holmes
April 8, 2019 - 4:56pm

Very little snow is now visible atop Mt. Benson following a warm and dry March.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — Water conservation officials are helplessly watching as already low snowpack levels melt well ahead of schedule.

New provincial data published Monday, April 8 showed snowpack levels on Vancouver Island's mountains are 66 per cent of normal, down from 85 per cent a month prior.

The situation is more dire locally, where the Regional District of Nanaimo's Julie Pisani said the mid-island's alpine snow reserves are roughly 55 per cent.

“If we haven't built up that reserve than that means we have less that will actually be contributing to recharge our aquifers and flow into our streams during the summer period when we need that water the most.”

Pisani, the RDN's drinking water and watershed protection program coordinator, said snowpack levels have a direct impact on supply for all regional user outside the City of Nanaimo relying on groundwater.

More snow at higher elevations in April is possible but Pisani cautioned against wishful thinking.

Instead of the snowpack building through April and melting into May, she said an unusually warm and dry March drained significant amounts of snowfall from local mountains.

As a result, Pisani said early conservation is paramount, noting stage one watering restrictions for the entire mid-island region came into effect April 1.

Bill Sims, the City of Nanaimos director of engineering and public works, said their Jump Lake reservoir is in the 95 per cent range as of Monday afternoon.

“We've been anticipating worse case conditions and storing water at Jump Lake earlier than we would have in the past,” Sims told NanaimoNewsNOW.

Sims estimated the City's water supply will be at full supply by the end of June.

The Coastal Fire Centre's Donna MacPherson said low snowpack reserves don't significantly impact Vancouver Island from a firefighting perspective, since most fires occur at lower elevations where people camp and hike.

 

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