Snowpack levels threaten B.C.’s reservoirs

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By Christine Rumleskie and Jon Zacks

B.C.’s Environment Minister says the province has experienced an unusually warm and dry winter this year.

Barry Penner says, as a result, snowpack levels are below normal levels, which could cause serious water-supply challenges to develop this summer, including lower-than-normal reservoir levels.

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B.C. Hydro echoes the findings, and says they also apply in the North. Spokesperson Bob Gammer says the snowpack surrounding the Williston Reservoir currently sits at around 89% of the normal rate.

However, Gammer says there is a back-up plan for when reservoir levels are low, including a multi-year storage reservoir integrated within the Williston Lake.

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B.C. Hydro measures the difference between the elevation of the reservoir, and where the generating units are in the power house at the Bennett Dam.

Gammer says whenever snowpack levels are higher, the reservoir is higher, resulting in more efficient hydro production.

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In a report released on April 8th, Penner said conditions as of April 1st indicated a low risk for freshet flooding in B.C.’s major river basins including the Peace River.

However, the report finds that spring weather has a large influence on water supply levels. It says rainfall during April, May and June will need to be at or above normal levels to counteract the low snowpack levels.

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