Could there be a water shortage in Metro Vancouver this summer due to a low mountain snowpack?
In late-February, the lack of any snowpack on the North Shore mountains was not a cause for concern for water infrastructure officials at the Metro Vancouver Regional District.
“February, March and even into April are traditionally periods of heavy snowfall in our local mountains so we could have months of winter ahead,” Marilyn Towill, the Division Manager of Water Services Transmission Operations for Metro Vancouver, told Vancity Buzz in February.
But the hoped major ‘catch-up’ snow accumulations during the latter winter and early spring months never arrived.
There are now renewed public concerns over water supplies with reports that mountain snowpack levels on the South Coast are just 13 per cent of what they should be at this time of year.
“Overall we’ve seen decline in the snow basin indices for much of the province and in particular for the southwest of the province,” Tobi Gardner, Water Resources Scientist with the B.C. government, told CKNW.
The mountain snowpack acts like a sponge that slowly releases water into the reservoirs in the spring and summer months. This adds to the runoff that comes from rainfall.
Of course, the lack of snowfall also put an early end to the 2014-15 ski season on the North Shore mountains.
The last time severe drought conditions occurred was in 2003 when one of the driest summers in memory led officials to mandate lawn sprinkling to just one day per week in early August. Depleting water levels persisted and caused a complete ban from August 22 to September 30.
Dry conditions also created favourable conditions for forest fires that year, including the devastating Okanagan Mountain Park Fire.
Map of the Metro Vancouver region’s water sheds and water service systems.
Image: Metro Vancouver (note: this map does not include the recently built Seymour-Capilano filtration systems)