An exceptionally dry November means that water levels are low in the hydro electric watersheds on Vancouver Island.
The four reservoirs on the Island, located in Jordan River, Ash River, Puntledge River and Campbell River provide a third of Vancouver Island’s power supply.
Jordan River is a small reservoir, explained BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson, so it’s mostly used as a standby in case of power outages or for peak hours. The other reservoirs are basic loads which run 24/7. All of them are running low.
“The upper watersheds at Jordan River, Ash River and Puntledge River all set records for the lowest amounts, about a third of normal levels, so that’s quite a change,” said Stephen Watson, BC Hydro spokesperson. “The Campbell River one is at its sixth lowest.”
The water shortage is due to a record-low of rainfall in the area. Environment Canada reported that November was one of the driest that Greater Victoria has seen in decades, with the lowest rainfall since 1993.
“We also had 14 straight days with no rain at the Victoria Airport, which we’ve never seen,” Environment Canada Meterologist Armel Castellan told Black Press Media. “Before that the record had been 12 days.”
This means the outputs at the watersheds are low; Puntledge River, which usually runs at 24 mega watts, is now running at 10 mega watts, at a time when more electricity is used than ever.
“It can almost double in terms of electric demand from summer to winter, primarily because a lot of Vancouver Island doesn’t have gas,” Watson said. “Lights are on longer, heat is on and Christmas plays into it. It’s quite the difference, but at the same time our system is designed for those variances.”
Despite the local shortfall, Islanders won’t have to worry about running out of electricity; a majority of power comes from the mainland from stations such as Peace River.
“It’s a pretty robust system, and that’s how we manage through times like this,” Watson said, adding that sooner or later the rain will come. “It’s Vancouver Island, and you get those large storm events. The Island reservoirs are small and fairly susceptible to fairly rapid change.”
Enviornment Canada reports that rain is expected across the Island over the next week.