BC Hydro adapting to low water levels as drought continues

Photo of the John Hart Dam supplied by BC Hydro.

Water management strategies are changing as continued warm temperatures and dry weather hit the province.

The most significant impacts are being seen at Puntledge and Campbell River on Vancouver Island, according to BC Hydro. They say a 53-year-old record was broken in Campbell River last month with the lowest inflows at around 17.4 per cent for the Strathcona area.

The dry weather has also created drought levels four and five on the South Coast. They have also hit river systems harder than expected, according to BC Hydro, and thousands of fish have died because river inflows cannot be adjusted.

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BC Hydro says they are not concerned about power delivery in the province as most of B.C.’s power comes from larger facilities in the province that still have enough water.

On Vancouver Island, BC Hydro says they reduced Puntledge River flows by one-third last week and on the Lower Mainland at Coquitlam and Ruskin/Stave.

“With the extremely hot and dry conditions, BC Hydro has been taking proactive steps at many of our South Coast facilities for months to conserve water to protect the downstream fish habitat,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Mora Scott.

“We began holding back water in July and August at some facilities anticipating the dry conditions to help ensure we would have water storage for the later summer and early fall salmon spawning.”

Hydro also adds they are working to improve its weather and inflow forecasting down to the hour, expanding hydroclimate technology and investing in capital projects like spillway gate replacements.

Hydro says forecasts are not showing a lot of rain in the near future, but water inflows and precipitation usually return by the end of October.

They say they will be monitoring the situation and will make changes if necessary.