A complete lack of snow has caused the ski season on the North Shore mountains to take a turn for the worse, but that does not mean a water shortage in Metro Vancouver is imminent this spring and summer.
Earlier this year, heavy rain from subtropical systems followed by a prolonged period of unseasonably warm weather thinned out the snow pack considerably on the South Coast. For the North Shore mountains in particular, there has been little or zero snow accumulation since January with the freezing level hovering high above the mountain peaks.
All of the region’s 2.3-million residents receive drinking water from the three mountain water reservoirs that are fed by a watershed drainage area spanning 524 square kilometres. Rainwater and snow pack melt are the source of water, funnelling through streams in the catchment area and flowing into the reservoirs.
However, officials with the Metro Vancouver Regional District are not concerned about a potential water shortage at this time.
“Metro Vancouver is closely monitoring the situation and there is no cause for concern,” Marilyn Towill, the Division Manager of Water Services Transmission Operations for Metro Vancouver, told Vancity Buzz. “February, March and even into April are traditionally periods of heavy snowfall in our local mountains so we could have months of winter ahead.”
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)