Comox Lake water level is only at 131.8 metres, 1.5 metres below average for this time of year. (Stephen Watson/Twitter)

Vancouver Island water system at 50-year low

“Winter drought” has Comox Lake/Puntledge River system in full conservation mode

Typically at this time of year, Vancouver Island river systems would be running at near-capacity.

But less precipitation and colder weather has resulted in low water evels and the lowest March water inflows from Comox Lake in 50 years.

According to Stephen Watson, stakeholder engagement advisor with BC Hydro, the Comox Lake/Puntledge River system is operating in full water conservation mode. February’s precipitation was only 36 per cent of normal causing the reservoir level to be about 1.5 metres below average for this time of year. So far, the beginning of March has been the driest it’s been in 40 years.

This is following a wet January that brought the reservoir up to a high of 134.3 metres, necessitating flood risk management operations. The reservoir is currently at 131.8 metres.

RELATED: Drought fears high, Cowichan Lake already at August lows

The Puntledge River system isn’t the only system on the Island suffering from a “winter drought.” Watson says all Vancouver Island watersheds are in the same boat, as well as some on the mainland.

“I wouldn’t say it’s rare that at this time of year we’re generating at a less amount, but what’s different is how things have changed,” Watson said. “Coming from mid-January, basically the fall into the early winter was wet and mild as everyone knows but it just really shifted to cold weather beginning of February.”

In mid-February, they dropped their power generation down to 40 per cent of capacity – around 9 megawatts – and more recently, it dropped even further to one-third of capacity – around 7 megawatts.

The amount of water being released from the Comox Dam has also dropped, only allowing enough water to flow to keep the fish habitat sufficiently covered.

“The challenge is that it could be tough as it goes through the spring and in particular towards the late summer in terms of conserving water for all the various water use interests,” said Watson.

However, Watson is still hopeful for more rain into the beginning of spring to get water levels higher.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North Island College offers resources for students learning online

College will hold a ‘virtual orientation’ this week

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

Port Alberni company earns $10,000 grant from Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Company produces specialized equipment for large-scale mining, logging machinery

Bread of Life receives $10,000 donation from Western Forest Products

The donation will go towards COVID-19 community response

Port Alberni goaltender continuing hockey career at college

Jaysen MacLean commits to the University of Jamestown Jimmies

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

Travel restrictions inspiring co-operation in border communities

Small border towns are asking for exemption to travel ban

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

Woman arrested near Nanaimo beach after alleged road rage incidents

37-year-old woman facing charges including assault, assaulting a police officer, impaired driving

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Leave your deets when dining: Restaurants taking personal info to trace COVID-19

Health officials say indoor dining presents a higher risk

Most Read