Expanded watershed protects Greater Victoria from ‘winter drought’ suffered elsewhere

Less precipitation in February impacts watersheds elsewhere while Victoria remains at 99.3 %

Despite a dry February, Greater Victoria’s largest watershed is in good shape.

That’s partly thanks to an early 2000s’ expansion of the Sooke Lake Reservoir – designed to protect the region’s growing population from shortages, like what is happening up Island.

Water levels in the Comox Lake/Puntledge River system, where water inflows from Comox Lake, are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years – forcing the system into full conservation mode and Cowichan Lake is just 40 per cent full, a level typically seen in August.

RELATED: Vancouver Island water system at 50-year low

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

But while the Capital region’s February rainfall was below average – with only 29 per cent of the monthly average (191.8 mm) recorded by Feb. 24 – on March 10 the Sooke Lake Reservoir was sitting at 99.3 per cent of capacity.

“We expanded the capacity of it in the early 2000s and have been good since then,” said spokesperson Andy Orr in an email. “It’s a bit early yet to tell about further rainfall this spring.”

The Goldstream water supply area – a secondary water supply – is lower, at 57.8 per cent of its capacity.

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Less precipitation and colder weather north of Victoria had a bigger impact on other watersheds.

The Puntledge River system is just one of many suffering a “winter drought” according to Stephen Watson, stakeholder engagement advisor with BC Hydro.

“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 told Black Press. “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.”



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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